Sinuses Giving You a Headache? It's Probably Migraine.

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Many people self diagnose themselves or are even told by doctors that some of their headaches, especially those that are accompanied by facial pain in the sinus area are "sinus headaches."

If you've tried various over-the-counter sinus medications to relieve your sinus headaches to no avail, there may be a good reason...

It's probable that you don't have a sinus headache at all. Nearly 9 in 10 people with sinus headache symptoms likely are suffering from Migraines, suggests a study being presented at the 46th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (AHS).

"It's not surprising that people are convinced they have sinus headaches, because they often have nasal congestion, pressure or pain in the forehead or just below the eyes, and red or puffy eyes... It's guilt by association. Much of the pain or pressure is in the face, on both sides, so it doesn't occur to them that this might be a Migraine."

lead investigator Eric Eross, D.O.
associate consultant in neurology; Mayo Clinic; Scottsdale, Arizona

Because they wrongly believe their Migraines are sinus headaches, some sufferers may be taking too many over-the-counter sinus medications inappropriately. In actuality, a sinus headache is rare in the absence of infection.

A Migraine can inflame the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve has branches in the face, One runs above they eyes, one runs along the sinuses, and the third runs along the lower jaw. As a result, the pain may be felt near the sinuses, which are air pockets between bone in the lower forehead, cheeks and behind the nose.

If you get what you think are sinus headaches, it's important to be evaluated by a headache specialist, said Dr. Eross. On average, each of the 100 patients in the study had seen more than four physicians for their headaches and had gone an average of 25 years without receiving the correct diagnosis - or significant relief.


  • If you think you have a sinus headache, chances are it's actually a Migraine, suggests a Mayo Clinic Scottsdale study.

  • Pain or pressure on both sides of the face, a runny nose and red or puffy eyes are likely symptoms of Migraine.

  • The most effective Migraine medications are triptans. Unless there are signs of a sinus infection, antibiotics should not be prescribed.

  • More than 35 million Americans suffer from Migraines.¹

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