Sinus Infections

How to Relieve Sinus Pain at Home vs. When to See an ENT

July 10, 2021

4 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Sinus pressure and pain can be excruciating, and if it lasts multiple days or happens frequently, we would love to help you get relief. Sometimes sinus pain is a result of a cold, allergies, or sinus infection, but it could also be caused by a deviated septum or other nasal issue requiring treatment from an ENT. 

If you or a loved one is in pain now, here are a few things you can try, before digging deeper into what causes sinus pressure or booking an appointment with Dr. Kaplan.

“ How can I get immediate relief from sinus pain?”:  10 sinus pain home remedies to try

Doing one or more of the things below can provide some temporary relief, but don’t use it as a substitute for seeing a doctor, especially if it’s a recurring problem. Things like bacterial sinus infections can get worse over time if not treated with the proper medication. 

  1. Use a saline nasal spray
  2. Take a hot steam shower
  3. Use a Humidifier
  4. Take OTC pain meds as directed
  5. Eat something spicy
  6. Use a warm compress on your forehead, eyes, and cheeks
  7. Elevate your head to promote drainage
  8. Try light exercise
  9. Massage your sinuses 
  10. Take an OTC decongestant as directed

Is it a sinus headache or migraine?

If you have sinus pain with no congestion, you may actually have a migraine. If you are congested and have an extremely painful headache, you may have either a migraine OR a sinus headache. 

Migraines are more common, but sinus headaches do occur and can be just as painful. That’s why we’re explaining how to get rid of sinus pain.

What causes sinus pressure and headaches?

Bacteria or viral infection
Sinus pressure and headaches are often caused by inflammation from a bacterial or viral infection. The lining of your sinuses begin to swell, which traps mucus and pus in your sinus cavities causing pressure in the face, over the cheeks or forehead, or between or behind the eyes.

Weather change

For people with sinus problems or allergies, a shift in weather—especially from summer to fall—can cause sinus headaches. Sinus pressure from weather is more prevalent in Houston and other coastal cities where high pressure and low pressure systems meet.


Stress-induced sinus pressure can also occur because stress weakens your body’s immune system, making you more vulnerable to the effects of allergens, as well as germs, bacteria, viruses, infections.

Injury or genetics

A deviated septum or narrow sinuses don’t cause sinus pressure but can make it easier to get congested and more likely to have chronic sinus infections. 

When should I see an ENT for sinus pain and pressure?

A good rule of thumb is to talk to your doctor if sinus pain and pressure is affecting your daily life. Other things to look out for include:

  • Your headache won’t go away
  • It makes it difficult to sleep
  • You’ve had a stuffy or runny nose for over a week
  • Your sinus headaches more frequently
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments don’t work
  • You injured your nose

What is the best pain relief for sinusitis? 

Sinusitis is the medical term for inflamed nasal passages and is treated differently based on the frequency and severity of swelling.

Acute viral sinusitis occurs occasionally and generally clears itself within a week. During this time, you can manage symptoms with pain relievers.

Chronic sinusitis occurs more frequently and lasts longer. While symptoms can be managed with OTC medication or antibiotics for bacterial infections. Chronic sinusitis may require intervention from an ENT.

What can an ENT do to reduce or prevent sinus pain?

There are multiple ways to relieve sinus pain including, pain-free balloon sinuplasty. Balloon sinuplasty is an endoscopic nasal surgery that uses small balloon catheters to drain the large nasal sinuses. This is an almost immediate way to relieve pressure and can dramatically improve the quality of life for those with a deviated septum.

Request an appointment to see if balloon sinuplasty is the right treatment option for you.

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