If you are looking for information online about sinus headaches, the data you are likely to find may be very confusing. That’s because these articles don’t differentiate between sinus headaches from infections and sinus headaches from completely different causes.
Both doctors and laypeople suffering from these headaches often believe that if there’s a headache centered over the sinuses, there must be a sinus infection. This is very often not the case. A sinus infection requires a completely different treatment from the care needed to relieve a sinus headache that is not caused by an infection.
About The Sinuses
Sinuses are the hollow cavities located on either side of, behind and above the nose. Inside the sinuses, mucus-producing tissues moisturize the inside of the nose and nasal passages. This coating of mucus protects the body from bacteria, viruses, pollen and pollutants.
When you get a cold, these tissues lining your sinuses get inflamed which causes them to produce excess mucus. Because the sinuses are connected to the nasal passages via small channels, this excess mucus can drain from the sinuses into your nose and thereby leave the body.
What It’s Like to Have a Sinus Headache
Sinus headaches can be mistaken for sinus infections because the pain is very similar in both situations.
- Pain, pressure and stuffed-up sensation in the sinuses
- Pain can also extend over cheekbones and the bridge of the nose
- Pain behind, above or below the eyes
- Pain is worse when bending over or lying down
- Congested nose in some cases
- Feeling that the ears are clogged
- Ache in the upper teeth
How Conventional Medicine Treats Sinus Headaches
Many medical doctors will treat a sinus headache as though it is a sinus infection. These infections might require antibacterial or antifungal medication if the cause is bacterial or fungal. But a sinus headache without infection being present will not respond to these treatments.
However, antihistamines or decongestants are often prescribed by conventional doctors or are simply picked up by the sufferer with the belief that the pain originates inside the sinuses. Because this isn’t the source of pain for many sinus headaches, the only reason they might feel better is that they are taking an analgesic that is blocking the pain from another, indirect source.
It’s far better to provide treatment for the correct cause that will remedy and resolve the underlying condition. Now, let’s look at that real cause.
What Really Causes These Headaches
Chiropractors understand that pressure on the nerves in the upper cervical spine (the vertebrae in the neck) can cause sinus headaches. These cervical nerves lead to neck muscles, the diaphragm, and the shoulders. They also connect with the network of nerves that branch out over the surface of the skull or cranium. These nerves are called cranial nerves.
When there are misalignments in the vertebrae in the neck, these nerves suffer abnormal pressure and are no longer able to function 100% normally. This interference in their function can create muscle spasms and loss of function elsewhere in the body.
In particular, cervical misalignments can affect the trigeminal nerve, a major cranial nerve with branches that extend over the face and jaw. Irritation or interference of this nerve can cause a pain that mimics that of a sinus headache. This is why problems in the neck can seem to create pain in the sinuses.
Where Is the Pain Actually Coming From?
Dr. Dusty has asked patients with sinus headaches if they noticed they had neck pain just before their sinuses started hurting and many will say yes. But once their sinuses began aching, they were so miserable that they didn’t notice any other pain.
The fact that sinus pain originates in the cervical spine is proven when the area is adjusted by an expert chiropractor. When there is no more interference with the cervical and cranial nerves, a sinus headache that actually originates in the neck can resolve.
How Sinus Headaches Are Treated with Chiropractic
- Chiropractic adjustments. Adjustment of the cervical vertebrae and improved alignment of this part of the spine helps restore full function to cervical nerves and relieve interference.
- Soft tissue work. Treatment for the soft tissues, such as Pressure Point Therapy, helps to loosen muscles that may be spasming as a result of nerve irritation.
- Cranial adjustments. Small movements of the bones in the face and skull can relieve stress and improve the flow of fluids. When the sinuses are congested, this type of adjustment helps drain them. These adjustments are made with the activator, a handheld tool used by chiropractors.
When sinus headaches have been chronic, repeated adjustments to restore the proper shape to the cervical spine may be needed. An individual adjustment may provide relief but resolution of the underlying condition may take time and repeated visits to the chiropractor.
Many people with chronic problems in this area can also benefit from exercises and stretches to be done at home. Compliance with lifestyle or exercise recommendations generally improves and speeds healing.
If you or someone you care about suffers from sinus headaches, please talk to us about how we can help. Just give us a call at (314) 635-1008 to schedule an appointment.