Sinus Headaches


Inflammation of the sinuses, which is also referred to as sinusitis, is a frequent cause of facial pain and headaches. The location of the inflammation typically corresponds to where the pain or headache is.

There are many sinuses in the face and head that can trigger a sinus headache. These include the sphenoid sinuses, which are situated behind the eyes and correspond to a headache on top of the head. The frontal sinuses are located on the forehead and are associated with a classic frontal headache. Ethmoid sinuses are placed on either side of the nose, between the eyes. Maxillary sinuses are along the cheek bones and jaws, causing a headache that may feel like a toothache in the upper teeth. If you have a headache that seems to be coming from one of these locations, and you also have other sinusitis symptoms, it could be the sinus inflammation causing your headache.

Sinus-Related Headaches

Now and then, a point of contact between a bone or cartilage spur in the nasal septum and other nasal tissues can trigger a headache or facial pain. Using an over-the-counter or prescription nasal decongestant could shrink the soft tissues enough to reduce the unwanted contact and improve your headache symptoms in the short-term. In an ear, nose and throat doctor’s office, the physician may be able to inject a local anesthetic or apply a topical anesthetic in order to improve facial pain and headache symptoms. Surgical intervention to remove the spur is an efficient method of removing the anatomical contact point.

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Diagnosing a Sinus Headache Versus Headaches from Other Causes

It is possible that inflammation of one or more of the sinuses in your head could be completely responsible for your headache. However, it is important to determine when a headache is not the result of inflamed sinuses. A headache can have other causes besides inflammation of a sinus, such as a vascular headache. Some other common types of headaches include typical and variant migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches. Although not a headache, trigeminal neuralgia and other types of atypical facial pain may cause considerable discomfort in similar places as sinus headaches. A specialist may be able to treat your symptoms if one or more of these other kinds of headaches is suspected in your situation. At times, inflamed sinuses can coexist with another type of headache, such as a tension headache. When this happens, it is necessary to treat both causes in order to eliminate the symptoms.

Facial Pain Syndrome

A type of facial pain syndrome referred to as sphenopalatine neuralgia triggers sharp or stinging sensations in the cheeks. This type of pain may need surgical treatment performed by a sinus specialist using minimally invasive surgical techniques if more conservative measures have not reduced your pain. If you have this type of facial pain syndrome, a thorough medical assessment can determine if surgery is right for you.