Headaches, Sinus Headaches

How to Know if You Have a Sinus Headache

September 7, 2023

7 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Wondering how to know if you have a sinus headache? Many people will often get confused as to whether they have a migraine or sinus headache or something else entirely. Needless to say, having a headache is never pleasant but understanding exactly what you’re dealing with can help determine how you go about treating it. 

While experiencing a headache is incredibly common and is usually not serious, headaches due to sinus problems are less common and often go undiagnosed. An untreated sinus headache could lead to a multitude of problems, so it’s important to seek out the proper treatment.

Michael Kaplan M.D., the founding sinus specialist of Kaplan Sinus Relief, is here to tell you how to know if you have a sinus headache and advise on what your treatment options are.

What do sinus headaches feel like?

Oftentimes, different types of headaches can be felt in different areas of the head. For example, a tension headache can be described as pain that wraps around the head and goes down the neck. A sinus headache, however, can actually be felt in different areas including the area around the sinuses, the forehead, and the jaw, creating a very uncomfortable experience. 

To better understand what a sinus headache feels like, here is a list of common sinus headache symptoms that may be indicators that your headache is sinus-related:

  • Forehead pain: There might be pain in your forehead or in the top of your nose and upper cheek area. The pain is best described as achy, not sharp. 
  • Facial pressure: With the buildup of mucus in your sinuses, you might feel pressure in your nose, eyes, and the area surrounding your sinuses. Some patients note that the pressure is a dull, constant, and painful feeling as opposed to a throbbing pain.
  • Fatigue: Most people will feel very tired when they have a headache caused by their sinuses.
  • Postnasal drip: If your headache is sinus-related, postnasal drainage will drip down the back of your throat which may cause coughing. This can also lead to a sore throat that could feel worse after lying down for extended periods of time. 
  • Tooth and jaw pain: The roots of your teeth are located very close to your sinuses. In some cases, sinus problems might come from dental infections spreading to them.
  • Tenderness: For some sufferers, there might be increased tenderness in the skin and bones around the affected sinuses.

Sinus headaches can range from mildly irritating to debilitating depending on the severity of your sinus issues. If any of these symptoms above seem to relate to how you’re feeling, it is possible that you are dealing with a sinus headache.

Sinus headache causes

One of the best ways to answer, “How do I know if my headache is sinus-related?” is to look at potential sinus headache causes and see if any apply to your current symptoms. There are a few common causes of sinus headaches that include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Sinus infections

If you have a sinus infection (also known as sinusitis), your sinuses are experiencing pressure due to swollen tissue that traps mucus inside. Someone who suffers from frequent sinus headaches may be experiencing chronic sinusitis, a condition that can be dangerous if left untreated. If you get sick often, it may be time to speak to a sinus specialist at Kaplan Sinus Relief so that you can find long-lasting sinus headache relief.

2. Allergies

Those who suffer from allergies know that sometimes they can be the cause of your sinus infections. The same is true for sinus headaches. When allergens such as pollen, dust, dander, and more get trapped in your sinuses, they become blocked and inflamed and the mucus containing various allergens, bacteria, and viruses aren’t able to drain properly. This results in you experiencing pesky sinus infection symptoms including the dreaded sinus headache. The good news is that the headache will likely go away as your allergy symptoms subside, but if they don’t, you can always turn to Kaplan Sinus Relief for help.

3. Sinus congestion

Also known as a stuffy nose, sinus congestion occurs when the pathways in your sinuses get blocked and the building pressure can cause a sinus headache. When sinus headaches occur without sinus congestion, they are often referred to as non-congestive sinus headaches. In these cases, sinus headaches can be caused by a combination of sinus inflammation and muscle tension around the sinuses. Either way, the headache is unpleasant and painful in some cases. 

How long do sinus headaches last?

How long is it normal to have a sinus headache? Typically, a sinus headache should last as long as the sinus infection lasts, which is usually less than a week. 

This means the sinus headache should go away after the infection runs its course — but this is typically only the case for those who don’t suffer from chronic sinusitis or frequent infections. If your sinus headache lasts longer than 10 days and your symptoms don’t seem to be improving, it may be time to seek medical attention to address your underlying sinus issues. 

How do you treat sinus headaches?

Most people know exactly what to do to treat a regular headache — take an ibuprofen, grab a hot or cold compress, and rest. Treating a headache caused by sinus pain, however, is a little different. Unfortunately, ibuprofen won’t unblock your sinuses or get rid of your facial pain entirely. Relief, however, can be found at home with a few simple remedies: 

  • Clear out your sinuses: One of the main causes of the headache is trapped mucus. Sometimes relief can come from just clearing out the sinuses. This can be done through the use of over-the-counter medicines for mucus relief, or by using a Neti Pot and flushing the sinuses out with a nasal rinse.
  • Reduce inflammation: Pain relief can also come from reducing the inflammation caused by your sinuses. An ice pack placed around your eyes and nose could help alleviate some of the pain in your head and face.
  • Stay hydrated: No matter what symptoms you might be fighting off, it is always a good idea to stay hydrated. Water can also help keep your mucus thin and make it easier to cough up or drain out, relieving some tension.

Sinus headache treatment is a different story. While relief can be done at home, these remedies are more temporary solutions. If your sinus headache doesn’t clear up on its own or lingers for weeks, it could be time to call Kaplan Sinus Relief for a more long-lasting treatment solution: balloon sinuplasty.

Balloon Sinuplasty can offer you long-lasting sinus headache relief

Now that we’ve covered how to know if you have a sinus headache, let’s discuss your best avenue for treatment. Balloon sinuplasty for sinus headaches is a great option for those who suffer from sinus headaches and other sinus-related issues often and are looking for a lasting solution, not just temporary relief. Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive, in-office procedure that only takes 20 minutes to complete. Twenty minutes in exchange for no more sinus headaches? Yes, please! 

Wondering if you’re a good candidate for balloon sinuplasty? Find out by watching this informative video!

If you want relief from sinus headaches, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kaplan from Kaplan Sinus Relief today to end those pesky headaches once and for all!

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