Being sick or suffering through allergies isn't fun. You're stuffed up, sniffly, can't smell, and are probably coughing and sneezing up a storm. Even worse, you may find that your head feels like it's underwater, and pressure is building inside it.
That's a textbook example of a sinus headache, an unfortunately common part of any and all forms of nasal congestion. You can't relieve a sinus headache the same way that you would a regular headache though. So what's the difference between sinus headaches and other kinds of headaches? More importantly, how do you find sinus headache relief when they've got you in misery?
What is a Sinus Headache?
Sinus headaches are headaches caused by the inflammation of your sinuses and a build-up of pressure, fluid, or both due to a sinus infection (also known as sinusitis). Your sinuses are a series of hollow spaces behind your nose, forehead, and cheekbones that produce mucus. Typically, your sinus cavity is filled with air, but if you have a sinus infection, your mucus can trap bacteria and irritants that can cause an infection and sinus pain.
Some common causes of a sinus headache may include:
- Any condition that causes mucus to build up in your sinuses, including the common cold, allergies, and sinusitis.
- Nasal polyps: benign growths inside your nose that can make it difficult to breathe normally.
- Deviated septum: a condition that occurs when your septum, the wall of cartilage and bone separating your nostrils, is not straight.
Sinus infections are very common symptoms of a sinus infection, but they're not the same as other headaches.
How is a Sinus Headache Different From Other Headaches?
To put it briefly, a sinus headache only occurs if you have nasal congestion. If you have a headache without nasal congestion, it's not a sinus headache. Without nasal congestion, your headache is likely either a migraine or a tension headache.
If you've ever been confused about what kind of headache you have, don't worry. It's easy to confuse them since they share a lot of symptoms, particularly the trademark facial pain we associate with your average headache.
There are 7 common types of headaches, each with their own causes.  These are:
- Sinus headache: caused by inflamed sinuses
- Tension headache: These headaches are often caused by stress
- Migraine headache: Severe headaches with debilitating pain that interrupt your daily life
- Exertion headache: Caused by intense physical activity
- Hormone headache: Caused by hormonal fluctuations, such as those from pregnancy, menopause, or hormonal birth control
- Hypertension headache: Occurring when your blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels
- Cluster headache: A rare disorder accompanied by severe pain or a burning sensation focused on one side of your face
It's important to note that migraine headaches can also cause nasal congestion or a runny nose, but the difference between a migraine and a sinus headache is clear. Your sinus drainage will be thick and discolored if you have a sinus headache. However, if you have a migraine, your nasal discharge will be thin and clear. In other words, healthy mucus.
What Does a Sinus Headache Feel Like?
One of the most common symptoms associated with a sinus headache is a feeling of facial discomfort. Additionally, a persistent, throbbing pain can be felt in the sinuses located behind the nose and cheekbones, along with accompanying sensations of tenderness and discomfort in the forehead region.
Other common sinus headache symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion (a stuffy nose)
- Thick, discolored nasal discharge (Colloquially known as snot)
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in your ears
- A puffy or swollen face
Adding that facial pain to a fever and a stuffy nose may feel like adding insult to injury, and all you want is a little relief.
How Do I Get Rid of My Sinus Headache?
Your treatment options for sinus headaches aren't the same for a tension headache, a dehydration headache, or even a migraine. While drinking plenty of water or electrolyte-rich beverages and taking two Tylenol are enough to take the edge off other types of headaches, that’s not the case with a sinus headache.
One major hurdle with sinus headache treatment is that treating the headache pain itself is only half the battle. To get rid of a sinus headache, you must address the root of what's causing your headache. In this case, that would be nasal congestion and sinus inflammation.
5 Tips for Sinus Headache Relief
To finally relieve your sinus headache, you first need to focus on sinus relief. That means treating the congestion, inflammation, and discomfort causing your symptoms at the source.
Here are 5 of our top tips to do just that.
1. Try SinuSonic
Gentle, natural relief to your nasal congestion and sinus symptoms can help knock out your sinus headache before you know it.
SinuSonic uses positive expiratory pressure (PEP) and gentle acoustic vibration to gently relieve sinus discomfort without drugs or chemicals. All it takes is 2 minutes a day to relieve nasal congestion and breathe better.
Need to blow your nose while using the device? Don't worry, that's normal! That's because your excess mucus and any blockages in your sinuses make their way out of your nose and as the SinuSonic clears your nasal passages.
2. Use a Hot or Cold Compress
A compress can not only help soothe the headache itself, but it can help soothe the internal factors causing it.
A hot compress— or just a hot washcloth— placed over your sinus areas can help dull sinus pain and loosen any mucus contributing to a blocked sinus cavity. Similarly, a cold compress can help soothe inflammation and treat sinus pain.
One effective treatment alternates the two— start with a warm compress across your sinuses. After three minutes, replace the hot compress with the cold compress, and let it rest across your sinuses for 30 seconds. Alternate twice more. You can also repeat this treatment an additional three times daily until your symptoms go away.
3. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can not only cause a dehydration headache, but it can also dry out your sinuses and cause increased pressure behind your face. Staying hydrated can help reduce any blockages causing pain or discomfort in your sinuses.
Drinking more water is an excellent way to stay hydrated, but there are other ways to stay hydrated too. A few of these include:
- Water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon or cucumbers
Soup or broth. We've all heard that chicken soup is the best way to treat a cold, and studies have found that there is truth to this old remedy! One study has found that chicken soup is rich in compounds that can help soothe upper respiratory symptoms and inflammation, such as those from the common cold and sinus infections. 
4. Elevate Your Head
Getting enough rest is vital for recovering from any illness, but how you rest can also make a big difference.
Lying flat can increase the pressure in your sinuses and increase mucus build-up. However, elevating your head while you sleep will help prevent that build-up in your sinuses and help you breathe more easily. Ideally, your head should be above your heart for the best results.
5. Use a Saline Solution or a Neti Pot
Nasal irrigation can help wash away excess mucus, soothe inflamed nasal cavities, and relieve sinus pressure and congestion.
You can do this with a saline solution or a neti pot, both of which are widely available at pharmacies and grocery stores. Both solutions (pun intended) are sterile and can also moisturize your sinuses and help remove any blockages causing problems.
It's important to avoid nasal spray if at all possible because extended use reduces the effectiveness of the medication over time. Not only that, but extended use can cause a serious condition called rhinitis medicamentosa that can actually worsen your nasal symptoms.
Are Your Sinuses Giving You a Major Headache? Try SinuSonic!
Sinus headaches are an unfortunately common part of sinus problems like the common cold or sinus infections, but they're not like most other headaches you can get. They can be especially tricky to treat unless you treat the root of the problem.
Treating the source of your nasal congestion can help make your sinus headache a thing of the past, and get you back to breathing as clearly as you used to. And with the right solutions, you'll be feeling like yourself again in no time.
Want a natural solution to your sinus symptoms? Give SinuSonic a try!