Difference Between Migraine Tension Headaches & Sinus Headaches

April 8, 2016

2 minutes

Migraine headaches and sinus headaches are headache disorders that are more often than not confused because they have similar symptoms. The symptoms may include pain in the head particularly forehead, itchy or watery eyes, nasal congestion, and facial pressure over the sinuses. To help you understand the difference between a migraine headache and a sinus headache, we’ve created a careful evaluation of each disorder.

Migraine Tension Headaches

Usually characterized by severe throbbing or pounding in one part of the head, migraine headaches last for 2-72 hours. The patient experiences nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to sound or light. For most tension migraines, the pain is usually on one part of the head but in some cases the pain may occur bilaterally or on both sides.

The main triggers of migraines are not wholly known. However, factors such as genetics and environmental conditions are known to play a vital role. In addition, imbalances in the brain as well as variations in the brainstem and its interactions with major pain pathways can trigger migraines.

Common migraine triggers that should be avoided to control the headache include foods such as aged-cheese, salty foods, and additives. Skipping meals or fasting can also trigger migraine headaches.

Treatment for migraines should be discussed with your doctor and may include a migraine preventative plan and prescriptions to lesson pain and reduce nausea.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are sometimes referred to as a migraine with sinus symptoms. They are caused by infection and inflation of the nasal passage. This leads to congestion that causes pain and pressure in the forehead, cheekbones or bridge of the nose and is worsened by bending over and coughing.

Treatment of sinuses usually requires examination of the nasal passage with a scope device or CT scan to reveal any signs of blocked sinuses, swelling, or presence of clear and dissolved nasal discharge.

Your physician will usually prescribe antibiotics together with anti-histamines and decongestants for the symptoms. Pain relievers may also be used to provide relief. Occasionally, corticosteroids are used to decrease inflation. Intake of fluids or using a humidifier can also help in reducing sinus headaches.

Your Path to Pain Relief

It’s important to understand the underlying cause of your headaches. Contact Dr. Kaplan today to get your customized treatment plan and get on the path of pain relief.


4101 Greenbriar Street, Suite 320

Houston, TX 77098