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The Link Between Sinusitis and Headaches

The Link Between Sinusitis and Headaches

Nearly everyone experiences a headache at some point. Stress, dehydration, and a lack of sleep are all common headache triggers. Occasional headaches tend to resolve quickly once you drink more water or catch up on sleep.

Chronic headaches, however, can quickly zap your quality of life. The first step in finding relief from chronic headaches is to pinpoint the source of your headaches. Our team of neurology specialists at Link Neuroscience Institute diagnoses and treats chronic headaches in our Oxnard and Santa Barbara, California, locations. 

Below, our team focuses on one particular cause of headaches: sinusitis. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between sinusitis and headaches.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis — more often referred to as a sinus infection — occurs when the tissue lining your sinuses becomes inflamed or swollen. Sinusitis develops from a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. 

This inflammation can block the normal drainage of mucus from your sinuses, which can then cause congestion, pressure, and discomfort. Sinusitis can also cause facial swelling, facial pain, and even halitosis.

Sinusitis can be acute and lasts four weeks or less. Viral infections cause acute infections. Sinuses can also be referred to as chronic. These infections tend to be bacterial and last for more than 12 weeks. Subacute falls between 4 and 12 weeks. In all cases, sinusitis can cause headaches.

The relationship between sinusitis and headaches

Headaches are a common symptom of sinusitis and are often caused by the pressure and inflammation inside your sinus cavities. Normally, your sinuses are just air-filled, so when your sinuses are blocked, the increased pressure can cause pain and discomfort in your forehead, cheeks, and around your eyes. This type of headache is often described as a dull, throbbing pain that worsens when you bend forward or lie down.

How do you know if your headaches are related to sinusitis

While sinusitis can cause headaches, it’s important to note that not all headaches are sinus-related. Sinus headaches are typically accompanied by other symptoms of sinusitis, such as:

If you have a headache without any of the other signs of sinusitis, chances are good that sinusitis isn’t the cause. Still, getting your headaches checked out can help determine the source of your headaches so you can get the right treatment.

Treating sinus headaches

Sinus headache treatments often focus on relieving the underlying sinus inflammation and congestion. This may include:

Nasal decongestants

Over-the-counter or prescription nasal sprays can help reduce nasal congestion and improve drainage.

Pain relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate headache pain. This won’t cure sinusitis or clear out your sinuses, but it can help provide relief while other medications (such as antibiotics) take effect.

Saline nasal irrigation

 Use a saline solution to rinse your nasal passages. This can help clear out mucus and reduce inflammation, which can help alleviate some of the pressure that’s causing your headaches. Always follow the instructions on the saline nasal irrigation bottle, and never share saline nasal spray with anyone else in your home.


If a bacterial infection causes your sinusitis, you may need antibiotics. Always take your antibiotics as directed and complete your entire dose, even if you start to feel better.

Cold therapy

In some cases, you may need to wait for your viral infection to pass before you feel better. Antibiotics won’t help your sinusitis if you have viral sinusitis. Instead, focus on fluids, rest, eat nourishing meals, and try placing a cold compress on your head.

When to see a doctor

If you’re suffering from headaches, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You don’t need to wait for headaches to worsen before seeking medical attention. 

You might benefit from help for your headaches if:

Help for headaches is just a call or click away. Call the location of your choice or click here to get started.

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