Sinus Headache: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More

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Sinus headache is a relatively common type of headache. They usually occur in the evening or at night and can be more severe than other headaches. People with sinus headaches often describe the pain as dull, throbbing, or pressure-like.

They may also have a burning, stinging, or gnawing sensation in their nose. Sinuses are small air-filled cavities located behind the nose, above the mouth, and between each pair of eyeballs (orbit).

The sinuses help keep inhaled air moist, so it doesn’t dry out and cause coughing. Air passes through the nasal passages to reach the lungs, where it is oxygenated.

Unfortunately, these same air passages can become infected with bacteria and viruses when blocked due to mucus build-up or swelling. This leads to inflammation and congestion within the sinuses, which causes pain.

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What is a sinus headache?

sinus headache is a throbbing, dull, or pressure-like headache that most commonly occurs in the evening or at night. It often begins on one side of the head and then moves to the other. The pain may be sharp, stinging, burning, or gnawing. It usually affects both sides of the head at once.

The cause of these headaches is not always known, but they are often triggered by a cold or allergy.

In some cases, it may occur due to a stuffy nose, injury, or exposure to high pollution levels. However, it can also develop spontaneously without an identifiable cause, such as following an infection. Headaches caused by sinusitis are often referred to as frontal sinus headache because it affects just one area of the forehead rather than moving around the entire head.

How common are sinus headaches?

These headaches are common, but they vary in how frequently they occur. They tend to become more frequent during the fall and winter months. Sinus headaches are typically mild in adults. Children, though, can be more severely ill if they have it.

Sinus headache treatment

A doctor may prescribe a treatment for your sinus headache pain that includes pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your doctor may also recommend other medications like aspirin or antibiotics if you have an infection of sinusitis. If you don’t see improvement with medication and can’t do anything to make your sinuses less congested, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove part of the adenoids or turbinates. This allows air to flow better through your nose and prevents infection from occurring again in the future.

What causes a sinus headache?

Although it is rare, a sinus headache can be caused by a sinus infection. Sinus infections are typically caused by bacteria or viruses that enter the nose and cause swelling around the nasal passages. This causes inflammation and sinus pain. Sometimes, a person may get sinusitis from an infection caught in their throat.

Other possible causes of sinus headaches include allergies, high altitude, and head trauma. Sometimes people might experience a sinus headache after a contracted cold while their nose is blocked, which leads to mucus build-up in the nose. A sinus headache can also be caused by constipation or food allergies, where the body cannot digest certain types of foods or cannot eliminate waste effectively so that it accumulates in the body’s tissues (such as in the nose).

If this happens, it can lead to an air-filled cavity called a nasopharynx enlarging and becoming inflamed, which causes pain.

What Are Sinus Headache Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of sinus headaches are aching, throbbing facial pain (including the eyes) and a feeling of pressure, usually behind the eyes.

Other less common symptoms include:

  • a feeling of fullness or congestion in the sinuses
  • a headache accompanied by nausea or vomiting
  • a headache that isn’t relieved by sleep

What does a sinus headache feel like?

A sinus headache typically feels dull, throbbing, pressure-like, burning, stinging, or gnawing. It can also be quite painful and even debilitating in some cases. In most people, the pain worsens at night or when the person is resting. People with minor sinus headaches may experience mild discomfort that goes away quickly. More severe or persistent sinus headaches are more likely to last for a few hours or days and may require medical attention.

What’s the difference between a sinus headache and a migraine?

sinus headache is a type of headache that originates from the mucous membranes surrounding your nose. These are the same membranes that become blocked, leading to a sinus headache. A migraine is a headache with an aura, a warning sign before the headache begins. The aura usually lasts from minutes to hours and can include symptoms such as seeing flashing lights or experiencing numbness or tingling sensations in your face, arms, or legs. Migraines can also cause nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and sensitivity to sound. Additionally, migraines are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as neck stiffness or pain during menstruation.

For these reasons, it’s best to consult your doctor if you experience any persistent pain in your head days after migraines.

How to relieve sinus headache

What Is The Difference Between Migraines & Sinus Headaches

The critical difference between a migraine and a sinus headache is the cause of the pain. Migraine headaches occur when there is a temporary malfunction of the part of your brain that controls pain sensation. This results in severe, throbbing, or pulsing pain on one side of your head and may also include nausea and vomiting.

An inflammation causes sinus headaches in the sinuses, which cause pressure on nearby nerves and can be experienced as dull, throbbing, or pressure-like pain.

Migraines are distinguished from sinus headaches through the symptoms and severity of their symptoms.

A headache that affects one side of the head is most likely to be a migraine, whereas a generalized headache that doesn’t have an apparent cause is more likely to be a sinus headache. If you experience extreme pain, either with or without nausea, it’s expected to be a migraine attack.

How are sinus headaches diagnosed?

The number and location of symptoms can determine the severity of tension headaches.

Some of the most common signs a person has a sinus headache are:

  • pain in the forehead, temple, or cheekbone
  • pressure or fullness in the face
  • pain in one or both eyes
  • pain on one side of the head
  • feeling lightheaded, woozy, or dizzy

How do I relieve sinus headaches?

If you have sinus pressure, it is vital to get plenty of sleep to help your body recover. Resting your head on a pillow can also help relieve the discomfort. Next, drinking lots of fluids can help with pain relief. You should also avoid taking anti-inflammatory prescription medications like ibuprofen which can be harmful to your stomach or kidneys if taken long-term.

In addition, some people find that taking a warm bath before bed helps them feel better. One technique that can be used to alleviate sinus headaches is sinus irrigation. This involves using saline solution to rinse the nasal passages and clear out mucus and debris in the nose. This can help reduce pressure and swelling within the nasal passage and encourage mucus drainage from the sinuses.

If this doesn’t work, you could use other techniques, such as snorting steam for short periods or using a neti pot (a device with its little spout).

Prevention and remedies?

The most effective way to prevent a sinus headache is by taking proper care of your sinuses. The most popular strategy is avoiding things that cause irritation or congestion, like smoking, chewing gum, or nose-picking. It’s also essential to ensure your sinuses are draining correctly by using nasal saline sprays and rinsing with a neti pot. Finally, if you have a sinus headache, you must consult a doctor as soon as possible so you can be assessed for any underlying conditions.

When to consult your doctor

If your sinus headache is chronic and affects your ability to work or sleep, you should talk with your doctor to see if it’s time for sinus surgery. You should also contact a doctor to discuss options for treatment if the pain worsens. Some doctors recommend you treat sinus headaches at home before seeking medical care.

However, if the pain is severe enough that you can no longer function, don’t hesitate to call for help. You may need emergency medical care to prevent permanent damage from a concussion that could otherwise result from an untreated sinus headache.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

It is possible to have a sinus headache without being congested. It all depends on the extent to which the sinus is inflamed. If your brain’s pressure decreases significantly, it can cause a sinus headache. However, if you are only feeling an increase in pressure, which is being transmitted up through your sinus cavity and brain, then you may not be congested.

Sinus headaches usually last less than 24 hours but can last up to 3 days. People with these headaches tend to experience a dull ache or throb in the front of their head, sometimes combined with pressure or fullness. The pain may worsen when you move your face, yawn, or swallow. However, they don’t usually cause pain or a run-down facial sensation behind the eyes.

While sinus headaches aren’t severe, there are some treatments you may try at home. For example, you can take over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or aspirin. You can also make use of a heating pad on your forehead or eat foods high in zinc, such as oysters, beef liver, and Brazil nuts.

When sinus headaches occur at night or in the evening, they may be due to allergies. This is because your nose is more sensitive to allergens at night when you’re more likely to wake up due to the pain. Taking over-the-counter antihistamines may help with this type of headache. However, if you don’t feel better after trying these options for a few days, see your doctor for advice on other treatment options.

You can do various things to treat your recurring sinus headaches. The first is to take a close look at your health history. Do you have any other health issues contributing to the pain? If so, you should work with your doctor to devise a treatment plan that will work best for you and limit your risk factors.

Second, try some over-the-counter pain relief medicines. These can help alleviate the pain, at least temporarily.

However, it’s important to remember that these medications aren’t meant to cure suffering and won’t necessarily lead to long-term relief from sinus headaches.

Third, many natural remedies can help with sinus headaches and other common migraines. These include regular exercise, relaxation techniques, dietary changes, and over-the-counter or natural pain relief medicines.

Finally, if all else fails, consider seeing a medical doctor for a treatment plan that will work best for you. They can recommend suitable options for your specific symptoms and monitor their effectiveness over time. When doctors diagnose sinusitis, there are suitable remedies available for treatment.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.