What are Sinuses?
Sinuses are air-filled spaces inside the bones of your forehead, cheeks, and behind the nose. There are also sinuses in various other parts of the body, including the brain. Sinuses are used by the body as a drain.
In the case of the sinuses in the forehead, cheeks and behind the nose, they’re used to drain mucous. These sinuses often get inflamed due to allergic reaction, such as in hay fever, or from an infection. When inflammation occurs within the sinus, it causes an increase of mucus secretion, which can result in a blockage of the sinuses. This can result in pain, even severe pain in the forehead, below the eyes, around the cheeks, behind the nose and even around the teeth.
What is Sinus Headache?
Sinus Headache is experienced in the sinus and nose area. This type of headache is bilateral in nature, where symptoms are felt on both sides of the sinuses/nose.
Sinusitis vs Migraine
The location of pain from a Sinus Headache can be similar to that of a Migraine and/or a Tension-Type Headache.
To differentiate sinus headaches from the other types of headaches/migraines, sufferers of Sinus Headaches also experience:
- Runny nose or congestion during headache
- Watery eyes during headache
- Increased pressure or pain in sinuses
What is the cause of Sinus Headache?
Sinus headache is commonly thought to occur due to respiratory infections such as a cold or an allergy such as hay fever. In most cases the cause of sinus headache is a reflection of infection within the sinus, which can then result in headaches and migraine like pain. During an allergy attack, such as inhaling an allergen, the lining of the nasal cavity and sinus will sense this as a threat due to the presence of a foreign body. This is registered by the trigeminal nerve, which then relays the information anteriorly to the superior salivatory nucleus. From here on, the response is to fill the sinus and nasal cavity with excess mucous, so that it is either removed by dripping out of the nose, or digested by swallowing. Hence, you will feel a blocked nose, headaches and possibly migraines associated with sinusitis.
What commonly occurs with the majority of our patients is a dysfunction in the neck to reproduce sinus headaches. Those found with a SENSITISED BRAINSTEM will have an overactive and sensitive trigeminal nerve. Hence, what would normally not cause an allergy in the nose and sinus now results in immediate allergies and sinus headaches. In this case, when a simple non-allergic dust particle enters the nose and sinus, due to a sensitive and heightened trigeminal nerve, the body now registers this as a large threat. The sensitised trigeminal nerve then relays information to the superior salivatory nucleus to secrete excess mucous in the nose and sinus. From here on, infection can occur as there is an excess amount of mucous which a lively home for bacteria to breed in. Once infection occurs headaches and migraines will usually proceed resulting in sinus headaches.
Incorporating some lifestyle changes may help you with preventing sinus headaches. These may include:
- Physical activity has been shown to improve general well-being and quality of life. With the correct training, exercises can improve muscular endurance and/or strength. You could try to add in simple exercises daily to improve your function.
- Avoiding Triggers
- Try to avoid certain foods, smells, environments and/or activities that have triggered your headaches in the past.
- Reducing stress
- Having stress in our lives can often cause muscular tension, typically along the neck and shoulder muscles. This can play a role in headaches. Finding relaxation strategies such as breathing techniques and/or doing things you enjoy doing are good ways of reducing stress.
I’ve already tried everything. What else can be done to help Sinus Headaches?
You may have trialled many things in the past such as over-the-counter painkillers, decongestant medications, nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines, breathing in humidified air, flushing the nasal cavity and sinuses with salt water, and even surgery. Despite all of these treatment options, you may still end up with continuous sinus headaches. If this is the case, have you had your neck assessed? Or more importantly have you had your brainstem assessed to investigate whether the cause of your symptoms are originating from the brainstem itself?
At the Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic™, we have seen countless amounts with sinus headache sufferers and use world-class techniques in identifying whether the neck and brainstem is at fault. A thorough examination of the upper cervical spine is initiated to determine the severity of your SENSITISED BRAINSTEM.
Once treatment commences we expect a significant improvement to occur rapidly in 90% of our patients with Sinus Headaches and within the first 5 treatment consultation.
If you suffer from chronic sinus headaches and have trialled all types of medication with no significant relief then you should get your neck thoroughly examined.
Imagine living a life free from sinus headaches and saying goodbye to medications!