The Causes of Sinus Headaches

What are they?

Sinus headaches are described as a pain around the eyes, forehead and cheeks.  Typically the pain is worsened by movement of the head and is often accompanied by nasal discharge or fever.  When experiencing a sinus headache, it quite often feels like you have an infection (Sinusitis).

Your sinuses are cavities filled with air that are found behind the bridge of your nose and your forehead.  They drain through channels in your nose and when you develop inflammation your channels can become clogged by the swelling and mucus increase.  This blockage causes pressure to build up in and around the sinuses which causes a headache.



Sinus headaches are caused by the congestion and pressure in your nasal cavities.  This is generally brought on by an infection, a virus or allergic reaction.  If you catch a cold or experience a bad case of hay fever, you are at high risk of developing Sinusitis.  Sinus headaches can often be confused with migraines due to them sharing some of the same symptoms.  For example a migraine can feel worse when you move your head, and may also be accompanied by nasal discharge.



  • Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin can be effective in dealing with the head pain of Sinusitis.  They shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time, so if your headache persists you should contact your doctor.
  • Decongestants can help by relieving the inflammation and reducing the pressure in your sinuses.  There are nasal sprays you can buy over the counter and steroid options from your doctor if you require something stronger.
  • Antihistamines may also help if your headache is caused by an allergy but some of them can cause drowsiness so are best taken at bedtime.
  • Flushing out your sinuses with a neti-pot can be a very effective way to reduce the inflammation and ease your headache.  Always use purified or boiled water due to risks of bacteria in tap water.
  • Steam therapy can be helpful in reducing inflammation and draining excess mucus.  Sit with a towel over your head while breathing in the steam from a bowl of hot water.  If you want to you can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to help clear your airways.
  • In extreme cases, surgery may be an option to widen the nasal passages and allow them to drain more efficiently and reduce the swelling.



Quite often, a sinus headache is caused by infection or an upper respiratory virus and these cannot always be avoided.  Altering your diet to include more fresh fruit and vegetables can help to strengthen your immune system and make it less likely for you to catch a cold or the flu.  If you have regular sinus headaches due to an allergy, you may need to find ways to avoid the triggers.  Keeping your nasal passages moist is one of the most important things you can do if you suffer regularly as dry air can irritate your sinuses.  If you are worried about persistent headaches, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

Home Remedies for Sinus Headaches


When your sinuses become inflamed due to infection or allergy, it can make life miserable for the sufferer.  Some people prefer to stay away from conventional medicines and drugs, choosing instead to take the more natural route.

What is a sinus headache?

Your sinuses are air filled spaces behind the bridge of your nose and your forehead.  There are channels in your nose that your sinuses drain through but when they become inflamed they can get blocked up.  This causes pressure to build up in your sinuses and you develop a headache.

Preventative measures

One of the best ways to prevent a headache related to your sinuses is to keep your nasal passages moist.  Placing a hot damp towel over your face or regularly using steam baths to breathe in the air vapours can help.   Dry air can irritate your sinuses which can cause inflammation to develop.  If you suffer from regular sinus headaches due to allergies you may need to learn how best to avoid the triggers.  Sinus headaches caused by an infection or a virus will be more difficult to avoid.  Building up your immune system by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and getting more exercise can work wonders for people who tend to become sick more easily.

Things to try at home

If you have a sinus headache and are looking for some homemade relief, here are a few ideas:

  • The neti-pot has to be one of the most effective tools when dealing with sinus headaches and blockages.  They work by clearing away the bad bacteria and mucous from your nasal passages while soothing your sinus membrane to help relieve inflammation.  Using a neti-pot must be performed correctly and WebMD gives some detailed information about them here.
  • As mentioned above, keeping your nasal passages moist is a good preventative, but it can also help to sooth the problem if it has already occurred.  Hot baths or showers will create a good amount of steam and humidity to bring you some relief.
  • Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties which can help bring down the swelling in your sinuses.  You can make a tea with pieces of fresh ginger root: steep in hot water for 5-10 minutes, strain and enjoy!  For an extra kick you can add fresh peppermint which also displays anti-inflammatory traits.
  • Eucalyptus oil can be used in a steam bowl to help clear your airways and relieve pressure.  A few drops in a bowl of hot water and a towel over your head to stop the steam escaping is all you need to bring almost instant results.
  • Hot spices can be effective in opening up your nasal passages.  Mustards, peppers and chilies are all good to add to your food if you can handle it!
  • Stay hydrated!  Drinking plenty of fluids should help to speed up your recovery time. 


Sinus headaches and blocked airways can last a few weeks.  Drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest and if you are worried about persistent headaches, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

Home Remedies for Stress Headaches

Stress or tension headaches are the most commonly experienced headaches.  If, like many other people, you would prefer to try to manage your tension headaches without conventional medication there are some alternative methods you can try at home.

What are tension headaches?

A tension headache is described as a tight band of pressure or pain across your forehead, behind your eyes, down the back of your neck and sometimes in your jaw.  They can last from half an hour to a few days and are thought to be caused by muscle contractions.

Preventative measures

There are certain triggers that are thought to bring about a tension headache.  Avoiding these triggers may be the best way to prevent one occurring.

  • An overload of the chemical cortisol that is caused by stress can play havoc with the nerve endings in your brain.  This causes your muscles to twitch and tighten which after a while becomes painful.  Avoiding stressful situations or learning how to better deal with stress (such as by using hypnotherapy or learning relaxation techniques) can be extremely beneficial in preventing stress headaches, especially if you are a chronic sufferer.
  • Lack of sleep is another main cause of tension headaches.  It is recommended to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night to enable your body to perform at its best.  Sufficient amounts of sleep will allow you to deal with stress more efficiently.
  • Skipping meals is a bad idea if you are a sufferer of tension headaches.  Hunger causes fatigue which in turn increases your stress levels.  Eating a healthy balanced diet and eating meals at regular times will stabilise your blood sugar levels and keep you more relaxed.
  • Eye strain and bad posture (from working at a computer or driving long distances) can bring about a stress headache in a relatively short space of time.  Always take frequent breaks, walking around if possible and listen to your body for signs of a headache developing.  Sometimes a fifteen minute break is all that’s needed to stop an episode in its tracks.


Things to try at home

If you develop a tension headache here are a few things you can try at home:

  • Alternate hot and cold compresses to the affected area.  This will help to numb the pain and begin to ease the tension in your muscles.
  • Soaking your feet in hot water is said to be quite successful in relieving stress headaches.  It works by drawing the blood down to your feet which eases the pressure in your head.
  • Lavender or peppermint can help to soothe your pain, lavender being a relaxant and peppermint being an anti-inflammatory.  You can either massage a few drops of essential oil into your temples or make a tea with the fresh herbs.
  • Acupressure or acupuncture therapies are a great way to reduce pain and tension in many different parts of the body.  Having your pressure points manipulated in the correct way may relieve your stress headache and will also help to prevent them in the future.
  • Yoga may help with your tension headache by gently stretching and relaxing your muscles.  It will get your blood flowing properly and if performed regularly can help prevent headaches from occurring in the first place. 
  • Meditation can be effective in the prevention and treatment of tension headaches by reducing stress levels and helping to quiet your mind.  There are many types of meditation techniques available and you can find a few ideas here.


Tension headaches affect most of the population at some point.  Treating them first with some of these home remedies will prevent the more damaging effects of long term medication use.  Prevention is better than cure but be sure to visit your doctor if your headaches persist.