Types Of Headaches Sinus

Symptoms of a sinus headache usually accompany sinusitis, or an inflammation of the sinus passage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sinusitis affects over thirty million Americans every year, making sinusitis, and accompanying sinus headaches, extremely common health complaints.

Sinus Headaches - Types of Headaches

Sinus Headache Causes

The main causes of sinus headaches are allergies and sinus infections. Both cause inflammation in the sinus cavities and prevent the sinuses from draining properly. Air, mucus, and fluid trapped in an inflamed sinus cause painful facial pressure and tenderness. Trapped sinus contents may become infected, causing further inflammation and pain.

Symptoms of a Sinus Headache

Symptoms of a sinus headache include facial tenderness, pain, and pressure around the forehead, cheeks, or eyes. Pain from a sinus headache usually worsens if the affected person bends over or lies down, or if exposed to a sudden temperature change (such as leaving a warm house and stepping out into cold winter air). Generally, symptoms of a sinus headache are worse first thing in the morning, after spending the night lying down.

Pain from a sinus headache may mimic tension or migraine headaches, making symptoms difficult to differentiate. However, symptoms of a sinus infection are almost always associated with symptoms of sinusitis, which include nasal congestion, chills, fever, and yellow or green nasal discharge or mucus.

In addition to pressure, pain, and tenderness around the sinus cavities, symptoms of a sinus headache may also include pain behind the ears, or in the back of the head. A sinus headache may also cause the upper teeth to ache.

Relief of Sinus Headache Symptoms

Symptoms of a sinus headache can be alleviated, at least partially, by breathing moist air. Steam from a hot shower, for instance, can help soothe a sinus headache, as can using a cool mist humidifier. (The steam from a hot bowl of chicken soup has been suggested as one reason why chicken soup appears to help treat upper respiratory diseases: The steam acts as a natural decongestant).

Alternating hot and cold compresses also provides some sinus headache relief. Apply a hot compress to the affected facial area for three minutes, then apply a cold compress for thirty seconds. Repeat this procedure three times a sitting, up to six times a day for relief from sinus headache symptoms.

Medication for Symptoms of a Sinus Headache

Treatment objectives for symptoms of a sinus headache are essentially the same as for sinusitis symptoms: reduce inflammation and swelling in the sinus cavities and improve sinus drainage. Sinus headache pain can be treated with over the counter painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

Over the counter oral decongestants and nasal spray can provide sinus headache relief by easing congestion, but can only be used for a few days. If used longer, decongestants may cause more congestion once you stop taking them. People living with heart disease or hypertension should consult their doctors before treating sinus headache symptoms with any type of decongestant.

If over the counter medication does not alleviate symptoms of a sinus headache, a nasal spray containing steroids maybe prescribed. Combinations of decongestants and antihistamines work well if sinus headache symptoms are due to allergies or hay fever.

If medication proves inefficient, surgical treatment may provide some relief for chronic sinus headache symptoms. Surgery is usually only used if an anatomical problem such as nasal polyps is the root cause of the sinus headache. Sinus surgery carries the risk of severe facial nerve damage, however, so is generally considered a last resort for sinus headache treatment.


American Academy of Otolaryngology. (nd). Fact sheet: Sinus headaches.

Levine, H. (nd). Headache and sinus disease.

National Headache Foundation. (nd). Other: Sinus. The Complete Guide to Headaches.

University of Maryland Medicine. (2002). Sinus headache. A.D.A.M., Inc.