Sinus Headaches - Why You Get Them and How to Get Rid of Them for Good

Updated on December 13, 2016
hypnodoctor profile image

Dr. Blaz Banic studied biomedicine at the Institute of Pathophysiology in Ljubljana. His main focus now is cell stress and liver toxicology.

Sinus headaches are caused by sinusitis, an inflammation of one or more of the para-nasal sinuses.

Sinuses are the air-filled cavities (spaces) located in the different places inside the face.

Sinuses secrete mucus that moisturises the channels of the nose. In the case of a sinus-inflammation (such as allergic reaction or infection), the outflow of mucus is prevented, which results in a build-up inside the cavities. This build-up stimulates the pain-transmitting nerve endings inside the membrane, which, through sensitisation, leads to a headache.

Sinusitis can occur as a complication of acute coryza (inflammation of the mucus membrane in the nose, caused especially by a cold or by hay fever), influenza, measles, scarlet fever, and other infectious diseases.

Sinusitis can be unilateral or bilateral, meaning the condition can affect the sinuses on one or both sides, respectively. The duration of sinus inflammation may be:

  • acute - caused either by bacterial (purulent sinusitis) or viral (serous sinusitis) infection, and lasts up to four weeks
  • sub-acute
  • chronic - lasting more than 2 months


Sinusitis causes

Generally, sinusitis is caused by bacteria and viruses that cause inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. Acute sinusitis often occurs because of acute coryza, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, or other diseases of similar infectious nature. Acute sinusitis is more often seen in people with troubled nasal breathing, allergic rhinitis, and other diseases of the nose.

Acute sinusitis is more often seen in people with troubled nasal breathing, allergic rhinitis, and other diseases of the nose.

What type of sinusitis do you suffer from?

See results

Sinusitis symptoms

Sinusitis is usually characterized by common cold symptoms as malaise, weakness and fever, forms of acute and chronic sinusitis may also occur with:

  • Purulent phlegm from the nose, having a greenish-yellow color, which may be an admixture of blood
  • Severe nasal congestion
  • Weakening of the sense of smell
  • Strong dry cough, emerging at night
  • Redness of the skin area, which is located on sinusitis
  • Headache or facial pain

For acute sinusitis, pain is most common in the forehead, in the cheeks and lower eyes.

Chronic sinusitis may have the symptoms less severe than in acute sinusitis, but it runs longer.

Typically, chronic sinusitis is manifested by recurrent purulent discharge from the nose, nasal congestion desk, periodically emerging headache or facial pain and high susceptibility to colds.

A simple sinus headache self-test

You can also do a simple self-test for sinus headache. This isn't meant as a diagnostic tool, but it can be an indicator that the headache is indeed caused by sinus inflammation.

First a fair warning: After the test, your head might hurt a bit more for a while!

The test:

  • Step one: close your nostrils with your thumb and index finger so that no air can go out in step two
  • Step two: slowly blow the air out through your nose but don't allow any air to get out. Let the pressure inside your nose increase.
  • Step three: reduce the air pressure and open your nostrils again

The result:

If the pain during step two decreased or even stopped for a moment and when you released the nostrils and established normal pressure inside the nasal cavity, the pain started again, focused on the area of the forehead just above the nose or in the area to either or both sides of your nose (in the cheek bones), then there's a high probability that the cause for your headache is sinusitis.

Again, the pain can increase for a while after doing this test! Also, if the pain doesn't stop, it doesn't automatically mean you don't have sinusitis.

How To Blow Your Nose Correctly

  • Be in an upright position (sitting or standing up)
  • Take a somewhat deeper breath and hold it while you prepare a tissue and place it on your nose with one or both of your hands (whichever way you prefer - I prefer to do it with one hand)
  • Block one nostril with your thumb (or the tip of your index finger if you're using both hands to hold the tissue)
  • Now slowly, with feeling, begin to increase the flow of the air through your nose (the one open nostril)
  • You will feel when the flow is just right so that the contents of your nasal cavity begin to empty into your tissue
  • Continue to blow until you run out of air or you think you got all that was possible out of your nose
  • You can repeat the steps several times for each nostril.

Remember, it is very important that you initially slowly increase the flow of air through the nose and that when you get to the right flow, you keep it steady for as long as possible.

This way you will create a "suction" effect inside your nose and this will suck the contents of your sinuses out of them and into the tissue.

Blowing your nose correctly is very important in treating and preventing sinusitis and thus sinus headaches. The "trumpet sound" and forceful blowing of the nose can actually force the mucus in your nose to go into your sinus cavities rather than out
Blowing your nose correctly is very important in treating and preventing sinusitis and thus sinus headaches. The "trumpet sound" and forceful blowing of the nose can actually force the mucus in your nose to go into your sinus cavities rather than out | Source


Avoid making a "trumpet sound," or creating a sudden, forceful increase of pressure inside your nose, when you're blowing it. This will cause the mucus to go into rather than out of your sinuses.

If your nose is too congested to get even a tiny amount out, consider using de-congesting nose drops or alternatively some strong mints, horseradish, wasabi (Japanese horseradish) or something similar.

Sinusitis diagnosis

Sinusitis diagnosis In the case of suspected sinusitis, diagnosis and treatment is prescribed by an ENT doctor. Diagnosis involves rhinoscopy (a painless examination of the nasal cavity) and skull radiography, to detect dimming of sinusitis.

There are also handheld ultrasound devices available specifically for detection of sinusitis but not many doctors have them and they are more of an indication tool rather than a diagnostic one.

A general practitioner sees many patients with acute sinusitis but often it is challenging for him or her to diagnose the condition properly because the symptoms of bacterial sinusitis overlap with viral sinusitis, and it is difficult to distinguish between the two conditions based only on a clinical examination.

Sinus treatment and prevention of sinusitis

Treatment primarily aims at halting the inflammatory process in the paranasal sinuses and clearing them of mucus and pus, which were the cause of swelling of the nose.

Most often, sinusitis is treated by medication, if medication does not bring the desired effect, then other forms of treatment are used. Most otorhinolaryngologists practice a combination of antibiotics and surgical (puncture) method.

Antibiotics are needed to treat the bacterial infection, and the puncture is needed to destroy the accumulations in the nasal sinus mucus and pus. It is a piercing into inflamed sinuses and their subsequent drainage and removal of the enlarged mucous membrane, which prevents proper ventilation of sinuses.

When applying the nose drops for inflammation reduction and alleviating the nasal congestion, make sure your head is tilted way back. If possible, try to lay on your bed with your head slightly tilting backward over the bed edge. Alternatively, put pillows under your upper back just below the neck so that your head is tilted back. Wait half a minute to a minute in this position. The drops will probably slowly come all the way to your throat. Don't worry, you'll spit them out. They taste a bit bitter but they will help.

This way you'll allow the drops to reach further back and have a stronger effect on your mucus membrane near and in the sinus area.

After applying the drops, they will open up your nose and your sinuses and help you get rid of the puss inside.

In the box on the right (below the picture of a woman blowing her nose), I wrote down the instructions on how to correctly blow your nose.

It almost hurts me when I see someone blow their nose forcefully and incorrectly, especially if they are making the "trumpet sound" when they are doing it. And it isn't only annoying and impolite to do in public, it's actually dangerous and can cause more trouble for you.

The "trumpet sound" and forceful blowing of the nose causes exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

Because of the sudden pressure created in the nasal cavity, the puss is more likely to force itself inside the sinus cavities rather than going out of them.

Another good way to clean your nose and sinuses is a simple device called Jala neti. It's a specially designed small pot where you put 0.9% salt water solution heated to about 37°C/98.6°F) and then pour it through your nose.

I have included a video demonstration of the use of Jala neti below.

The water will not only clean your nose, but also produce suction to pull mucus from your sinuses.

A 0.9% NaCl solution is 9 grams (or about one and a half teaspoon) of salt diluted in 1 liter of water.

See the table below to see approximate values you can use to make your solution, depending on how much solution you want to make:

Amount of solution
grams of NaCl
teaspoons of NaCl
1 liter (2 US pints)
0.5 liter (1 US pint)
0.3 liter (0.6 US pint)
Amount of salt (NaCl) to use to make a 0.9% salt water solution for use with your Jala neti

Demonstration of the use of Jala neti to clean your nose and sinuses

Jala Neti

I would recommend using Jala neti once a day the first three days and then about three times a week until your sinuses are cured. Please note that excessive use can cause irritation and thinning of your mucus membrane.

The best time to cure chronic sinusitis

This doesn't apply to acute and sub-acute sinusitis. If you get acute infection and sinus headache, you should deal with it immediately. It's best to visit your doctor and deal with the condition.

As for chronic sinusitis, it makes sense to plan ahead and start treatment in late spring or beginning of summer (also consider when you get the allergies if you do to plan treatment after the particular pollen is gone from the air). Treating chronic sinusitis takes some time (could be a few months) and it's best if you can have the weather to your advantage.

It also helps if you can go to the seaside. Sea water can be very beneficial in clearing your sinuses. Make sure that the sea is clean.

How to prevent sinusitis

1. Avoid fast temperature changes (more than 10°C/50°F). Remember, it's the DIFFERENCE in temperature and not the temperature itself that can cause you to get a cold and consequently sinusitis!

Even if it's in the middle of the summer and you step into a heavily air-conditioned place, you can catch a cold.

Because your body is adapted to the outside heat, stepping in a heavily air conditioned place can cause your outer layers (including the nasal cavity) to experience a sufficient drop in temperature to make it easier for viruses to attach themselves to the cells and cause disease.

2. Make sure you take your prescribed allergy medication when that time of the year comes. Allergies will also irritate and cause swelling of your mucous membrane in your nose and in your sinuses. It's enough to cause headaches and problems but it also provides a fertile ground for bacteria to cause further problems.

3. Blow your nose correctly (see the instructions above).

Relieve sinus headache with acupressure



Below I have included a video of acupressure points you can use to relieve a sinus headache. Acupressure is an ancient Chinese technique dating back more than 3000 years (some say even more than 5000 years).

After you locate each point, you should press on it with your finger relatively firmly (find your threshold for pain. Let it hurt but don't make it intolerable. Sometimes they will hurt - this is usually a good sign you're pressing the correct point for your issue). Press and hold each point for about one minute, then slowly release and gently rub the area you were pressing on.

It's important to relax while you're stimulating the points. It can also be helpful to visualize the energy flowing through the point you're stimulating and through the area you want to cure (in this case, your sinuses). This isn't necessary at all, but I find it useful, and many times I can feel the warmth at the place where I visualize the energy.

In the first video you'll discover some acupressure points on your face. Find each point and press on it for a minute. Then release it and go to the next point.

The second video doesn't have to do with acupressure, rather it's a bite-size tutorial on how to relieve sinus headaches as advised by a doctor.

I suggest you try the acupressure; it really helped me. Enjoy the videos.

Relieve Sinus Pressure with Acupressure

How To Relieve A Sinus Headache: A Bite-Size Tutorial

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • hypnodoctor profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Dr Boone Doherty: Thank you. Glad you were finally able to get rid of sinusitis.

      @Laura335: You are welcome. Now you also know you can do something about these headaches. Thank you for th comment.

    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 

      5 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      I've been getting these a lot lately, probably because of the change in weather. It's both sad and comforting to know that I'm not the only one. Thanks for the tips!

    • Dr Boone Doherty profile image

      Dr Boone Doherty 

      5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Excellent article. I had chronic sinusitis for most of my life until I started doing almost all of the things you mentioned above. I wish I had read this 10 years ago. One thing I would add is nasogel products. I don't work form them but boy that stuff works for me. It's basically viscous aloe Vera and vitamin E to prevent drying and promote healing of sinus mucosa. I always use it before sleeping during cold dry weather or flying.

    • profile image

      Mohan Gupta 

      5 years ago

      आपका लेख हमारे लिये उपयोगी है। धन्यवाद

    • hypnodoctor profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @lauranap12: You are welcome. Thank you for commenting and rating.

    • lauranap12 profile image


      5 years ago from Vermont

      This article is very helpful! Thank you.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)