It’s never fun to get any type of headache, but sinus headaches can be particularly unpleasant. Not only do the headaches cause facial pain and discomfort, they are usually also associated with nasal congestion and discharge and changes in your sense of smell and taste. Although a sinus headache can quickly derail your day and ongoing chronic sinusitis can make it difficult to live your life, the good news is that there are a number of ways to cope with or ease the facial pain associated with sinus headaches.
Is It a Sinus Headache?
Before you can focus on reducing sinus headache pain, you need to be sure that what you’re experiencing is actually a sinus headache. Other forms of headache, such as a migraine, often cause a similar feeling of pain in the face, behind the nose and around the eyes. But, migraines also usually cause feelings of nausea and can make you sensitive to sound and light.
You don’t get that sensitivity or nausea with a sinus headache. Additionally, you are likely to have symptoms that are similar to a cold with a sinus headache, such as congestion, a sore throat and nasal discharge. Many people who suffer from sinus headaches note that the pain is worse in the morning and that external forces, such as changes in the weather or air pressure, can make their facial pain and pressure worse.
Humidity Can Help With Sinus Headaches
One of the primary causes of the pain and pressure associated with a sinus headache is inflammation in the sinus cavities. The inflammation can be accompanied by thickened mucous that doesn’t drain easily. Dry air can make inflammation worse, as it can irritate the sinuses. Dryness can also cause mucous to thicken and crust over.
Humidity can help reduce irritation and can thin the mucous in the sinus cavities, improving drainage and reducing sinus pressure and facial pain. If the air around you is very dry, you can use a humidifier to add some moisture. Taking a hot shower will produce steam that helps ease facial pain.
A warm washcloth draped over your face can add moisture to the air and help ease irritation. The warmth from the towel can also help ease swelling and make you feel more comfortable.
Medications Can Relieve Pain
A variety of over the counter medications can help ease the facial pain associated with a sinus headache. It can be worth taking an over the counter pain reliever to see if it helps. A pain reliever that also reduces swelling, such as ibuprofen, might be particularly helpful. Additionally, nasal decongestants can help improve drainage and reduce pressure in the sinuses.
Some people experience problems in their sinuses because of allergies. If your doctor determines that allergies are playing a role in your sinus headahces and other sinus issues, he might recommend taking an antihistamine to reduce the allergic response.
Rinsing the Nasal Passages Might Ease Discomfort
Salt water can help to clear your nasal passages and sinus cavities, reducing facial pain. The salt water rinses away any dirt and debris that might have gotten stuck in the cavities and also helps to thin mucous to reduce congestion.
There are several ways you can use salt water or saline to rinse your sinuses and nasal passages. An easy option is to use a saline spray you purchase at a drugstore. A more involved option is to use a neti pot or bulb syringe. Fill the pot or syringe with a saline mixture made with distilled or sterilized water, then tip the pot or syringe into one of your nostrils. The saline will rinse out the nose.
Since getting the hang of a neti pot or bulb syringe can be a bit tricky, it’s a good idea to ask your surgeon for more details about its use and about the right concentration of saline to use to get the best results.
Surgery Can Be Worth Considering
Often times, pain relievers, nasal rinses and humidity only provide a temporary fix for facial pain. If the underlying problem with the sinuses isn’t corrected, the headaches and pain will continue to come back.
For people with chronic sinusitis and ongoing sinus headaches, surgery can often be the most effective treatment option. Sinus surgery doesn’t have to be particularly invasive. New advancements in technology have led to the development of procedures such as balloon sinus dilation, which helps to improve air flow and drainage in the sinus cavities.
During the surgery, the surgeon threads a small catheter into the nasal passage and sinus cavities, using an endoscope, or tiny camera, as a guide. A small balloon is on the end of the catheter. The balloon is inflated so that it reshapes the cavity, improving air flow and drainage.
Other surgical options for patients with sinus headaches include more traditional sinus surgery to remove polyps, which can contribute to sinus problems.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience helping patients with sinus problems, including sinus headaches, in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about how turbinate reduction can improve your sleep and minimize snoring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.