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What Causes Sinus Headaches And The Ways to Treat Them

The pain from a sinus headache is felt when the membrane swells up due to an infection. This causes pressure and pain, also causing fluid to build up in the sinus.

Published: July 28, 2022 4:57 PM IST

By Lifestyle Staff | Edited by Anjali Thakur

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Sinuses are connected spaces situated behind the forehead, nose, and cheekbones. Sinus headaches occur when there is inflammation due to an allergic reaction or an infection(sinusitis) in the sinuses, adding pressure and causing blockages leading to pain. The pain from a sinus headache is felt when the membrane swells up due to an infection. This causes pressure and pain, also causing fluid to build up in the sinus.

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Dr Manaswini Ramachandra, Consultant ENT Surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bangalore explains that a person experiencing sinus headaches may feel the pressure build up in their cheekbones, forehead, and nose. She says, “The pain may escalate when the person coughs, or heaviness would be felt while the person tries to bend down. As the symptoms of sinus headaches overlap with that of Migraines, most often, it is confused with the same. Usually, when people complain of sinusitis, it is generally found to be a migraine. Migraines last only a few hours, whereas sinus headaches can last for many days. Pain, pressure, fullness in the cheeks, brow, and forehead, stuffy nose, fatigue, and aching feeling in the teeth are a few symptoms.”

Risk Factors and Causes

Dr Ramachandra shares, “People with a history of migraines or headaches, a family history of sinus, and those facing the hormonal changes associated with headaches are more prone to be affected by it.” The sinus infection (Sinusitis) is usually after a cold; to be more precise, it is commonly caused by anything that leads to the buildup of mucus in the affected area. The common causes of sinus headaches are as follows:

  • Common Cold: Sinus is a common condition during the cold seasons. A person infected with the common cold is more prone to experience sinus headaches as the mucus gets blocked in the nasal area, adding pressure on the target muscles and causing pain.
  • Seasonal Allergies: Like the common cold seasonal allergies too are the common causes of sinus headaches. The allergies cause a disturbance in the nasal area, causing inflammation leading to the symptoms of sinus.
  • Nasal Polyps: It is an abnormal growth in the nose that causes a blockage; this blockage causes mucus accumulation in the nose leading to pressure and causing pain.
  • Deviated Septum: This is a condition in which the cartilage and the bone at the center of the nose aren’t straight. This commonly causes problems in breathing; with mucus being blocked, and can also cause sinus headaches.


Sinus headaches are common and treated with some simple methods in most cases. These treatments aim to relieve the symptom and treat the infection. The common treatments recommended for sinus headaches are as follows:

  1. Home remedies: There are self-care tips available to reduce sinus headaches. It is recommended to try basic home remedies rather than taking medicines. Warm compressions on the pain area also help in relieving the pain. Drinking more fluids and softwater nasal spray also helps in the relief of sinus headaches
  2. Over-the-counter medicines: These can initially help relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation caused by the sinus cavities. OTC medicines like antihistamines may help if the headache is caused due to an allergic reaction
  3. Pain relievers and decongestants: If the pain sustains for long, then the doctor will suggest some medications for pain relief and also decongestants to clear the blockage that is the root cause of pain. The decongestants, however, are only to be taken under a doctor’s prescription, or it could worsen the symptoms.


Dr Ramachandra concludes by saying, “Home remedies and over-the-counter medications mostly work for the immediate relief of sinus headaches. However, if the headache lasts more than 15 days even after the frequently prescribed medications for pain relief and it starts interfering with daily activities suggests that it’s time to revisit the doctor and get further tests done. The extended sinus is a sign that the regular treatment methods are not working and that the patient needs further medical intervention.”

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