Sinus Headaches

Can You Have Sinus Pressure But No Congestion?

August 7, 2020

6 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Can you have sinus pressure but no congestion? And if you can, does this mean you have a sinus infection that requires special treatment? If not, exactly what can mimic a sinus infection?

Unfortunately, the answers to this slippery slope of questions aren’t always so cut and dry. In particular, with a headache like this, there’s a chance that it’s not a sinus headache, but a migraine.

The treatment and causes of a migraine and sinus pressure are very different, but the symptoms can overlap significantly. These overlapping symptoms can lead to confusion and leave people at a loss for which types of treatment to pursue. 

If you’re feeling sinus pressure without the typical influx of mucus, here’s what you need to know.

How do you know if you’re experiencing sinus pressure?

Before we get into the weeds of answering the question, “Can you have sinus pressure but no congestion?” it’s important that we review the basics of sinus pressure. 

A sinus headache is a symptom of built-up pressure in the sinus cavities — typically causing maxillary sinus pain. This buildup occurs when your nasal passages mucus can no longer drain properly. In other words, sinus pressure and the sinus sinus headaches it causes are linked to congestion.

Since pressure buildup can get intense, many people have confused sinus pressure for a migraine and vice versa. However, sinus pressure is typically accompanied with other symptoms (including a fever, earache, or signs of a sinus infection) and frequently occurs in tandem with certain conditions.  

If you’re experiencing any of the following situations, you may be feeling the effects of sinus pressure instead of a migriane:

  • You are feeling throbbing around your eyes, forehead, and nose. You may also be feeling this throbbing in your cheeks, jaw, ears, teeth, or back of the head.
  • You are currently suffering from allergies or have (or recently have had) a sinus infection.
  • You have thick mucus.
  • You feel the majority of the pain in the morning. (A sinus headache in the morning is common and can help you determine whether or not you’re experiencing sinus pressure.)

Keep in mind that if you do have sinus pressure, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a sinus infection. Everyday, non-serious issues, including allergies and the common cold can lead to sinus pressure and sinus headaches. 

If you are experiencing congestion, here are a few quick tips on how to get rid of sinus congestion.

Why are sinus headaches and migraines confused for one another? 

So, the answer to the question, “Can you have sinus pressure but now congestion?” is: not likely. But you can have a migraine whether you’re congested or not, and this is where the main point of confusion arises.

The root cause behind migraines is still up for debate. However the prevailing theory is that migraines are caused by neurological issues in the brain. Even so, the symptoms of sinus pressure can overlap with symptoms of a migraine. For example, patients suffering from either sinus pressure or migraines can experience drainage, watery eyes, and of course, facial pain. 

It is a commonly held belief that people who experience migraines have pain on the one side or the otherof their head. While this idea is true for many individuals, many others experience pain in their cheeks and forehead — ie, in the exact same place where you would experience sinus pressure. And some people experience sinus pressure on one side of their head.

People who experience migraines also frequently claim that factors such as weather changes, allergies, and congestion can act as triggers (albeit not as causes) for their headaches — contributing factors also shared with sinus headaches.

Key differentiators between migraines and sinus headaches  

So, how can you tell what’s causing your headache? If you’re struggling to identify whether your headache is a migraine or is caused by sinus pressure, the best thing you can do is to seek medical counsel. 

However, the two clearest differences are the location of the headache and whether or not you’re congested. If you experience the headache pain primarily on one side of your head, you may be more likely to have a migraine. 

If you’re not congested and have an extremely painful headache, you likely have a migraine. If you are congested and have an extremely painful headache, you may have either a migraine OR a sinus headache. 

Another potential indicator is the color of your mucus. Is it clear? If so, you most likely have a migraine. Is it yellowish? If so, your headache is likely caused by sinus pressure. 

To learn more about the differences between sinus headaches and migraines, check out our article: How Do I Know if I Have a Sinus Headache?

Do you have sinus pressure but no congestion? Contact Kaplan Sinus Relief today.

To reiterate: Can you have sinus pressure but no congestion? It’s highly unlikely to experience sinus pressure without mucus buildup and congestion. 

But that isn’t the end of the story. Treatments for sinus pressure and migraines differ. If you self-diagnose incorrectly and take sinus pressure treatments for a migraine, you could actually make your situation worse. And if you’ve ever had a migraine before, this you know just how unappealing this sounds.

If you do have sinus pressure, we can help you figure out the root cause of this pressure and provide you with various treatment options. These treatments could include decongestants, antibiotics, or in some situations, balloon sinuplasty.

Balloon sinuplasty in Houston has the ability to restore your sinuses’ natural drainage pathways and can help you find relief from sinus headaches and other underlying issues (including snoring, allergies, and rhinitis).

For more information on balloon sinuplasty or to schedule a checkup today, give us a call at 713-766-1818 or request an appointment online today!

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