Sinuses are cavities or spaces within the bones around the nose. Based on their location sinuses are of four types.
Frontal sinus: Sinus located within the frontal bone of the skull, which is above the eyes.
Maxillary sinus: Sinus located within the maxilla bone of the face, beneath the eyes under cheekbones.
Ethmoid sinus: Sinus located in the ethmoid bone that separates eyes from the nose.
Sphenoid sinus: Sinus located in the sphenoid bone at the base of the skull.
Sinus headaches are headaches usually caused by sinus infection, or sometimes by an allergic reaction. It is properly called as rhinosinusitis. In this condition, a person experiences a deep and constant pain around the area of the nasal passages (forehead, cheekbones and bridge of the nose). The condition may worsen with sudden movement, i.e., lying down or bending forward. Individuals suffering from sinus blockage are most likely to have a fever. Patients diagnosed with sinus headache were found to have migraine or tension headache in the majority of cases and remaining had sinusitis. Sinus symptoms include nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever and facial swelling.
Risk factors Of Sinus
The possible risk factors for sinus headache could be the previous history of migraine, allergies, asthma or severe headaches, family history, or hormonal changes associated with headaches.
Other factors include:
- Persistent cold
- Ear infections
- Nasal polyps
- Enlarged tonsils
- Nasal deformities
- Cleft palate
- Weak immune system
- Climbing or flying too high altitudes
- Travelling in an airplane while you have an upper respiratory infection
- A tooth abscess or infection
- Frequent swimming or diving
Is It Really a Sinus Headache?
Migraine headaches are often mistaken for sinus headaches. The signs and symptoms of types of headaches overlap and therefore it is very confusing until a further examination is done. Migraine headache lasts for more than a week or is not cured by antibiotics. Additionally, a person suffering from migraine headache is sensitive to light and experience nausea, vomiting and a throbbing headache. To treat a person, it is very important to figure out if the symptoms are caused by sinus headache or migraine. This can be done by a physical exam or in some cases by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
When to Consult a Doctor?
- If the headache lasts for more than 15 days per month
- If pain relievers are of no help
- If the headache lasts for over 24 hours
- When fever, nausea and vomiting symptoms are observed
- If redness of eye is observed
Best Ways to Get Rid of Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches are in general treated by primary care physicians. Primary care physicians or doctors prescribe medicines that ease the symptoms or for infection if confirmed. Possible medicines include:
- Antibiotics (if sinus headache is caused by infection), antihistamines (if sinus headache is due to an allergic reaction) or decongestants (to relieve nasal congestion).
- Nasal decongestants for up to 3 days.
- Pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can be taken for short-term relief of sinus headaches
- Corticosteroids to ease inflammations
- Anti-allergens if sinus is caused by an allergic reaction
But if the cases are complicated patients are advised to visit otolaryngologist. It is very rare, but in some cases, doctors recommend sinus surgery to remove any polyps or to open up swollen sinuses.
Natural Methods for Getting Rid of Sinus Headaches
Breathing in steam: Boil some water and pour it in a large bowl (heatproof). Lean slightly to face over the bowl and cover the head with a small towel. Slowly start breathing deeply in and out. Steam opens up the nasal passages and relieves from pain and pressure.
Saltwater nasal spray: Boil some water and add one teaspoon of salt to it. Once the salt is dissolved, pour a small amount of water into your cupped palm. Ensure your hands are washed before pouring the solution. Now, sniff the water into the nostril and repeat until you feel the nose to be clear. Alternatively, a netipot can be used.
Warm compressors to the face: Take a clean cloth and run it under hot water or immerse it in a bowl with hot water. Squeeze the cloth, apply it across the forehead, nose bridge and cheeks, and hold it for some time. Repeat until the pain is reduced.
Take proper rest – A good sleep can help heal your condition. Studies show that sleep stimulates the brain to release hormones that enhance tissue growth. Moreover, when the body is at rest a greater number of white blood cells that attack virus and bacteria are produced.
Drink more fluids (water, soups and tea) and keep the body hydrated. Ginger tea helps relieve sinus pain as it has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon is another natural anti-inflammatory ingredient that can be mixed with honey to relieve headache.
Other steps that help reduce the severity of sinus headaches are listed below:
- Avoid triggers. For example, reduce caffeine intake, alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco.
- Use humidifiers
- Use acupressure therapy to ease sinus pressure
- Apply essential oils
- Try herbal remedies (Feverfew and willow bark)
- Spice up your diet, for example, use pepper or hot mustard opens up nasal passages and give some relief.
- Exercise regularly, especially deep breathing practices and meditation
- Reduce medication that contains an estrogen (for women)
- Take a steam shower.
- Use over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to ease pain
The natural remedies listed above can help to relieve sinus related discomfort. However, these remedies may not always work. If a person is having headache consistently for weeks, he/she should see a doctor for advice and treatment.
Most people recover completely after following the natural remedies or sometimes with medication. However, an untreated sinus headache can lead to damage of other adjacent bones. Therefore, it is very important to consult a doctor when a recurrent headache is observed.