Sinus Migraines

Sinus migraines, no such thing! This is not an official classification. I sure get sinus attacks along with my migraines. How about you?

Sinus Migraines ... What To Do?

There is often confusion between sinus headaches and migraines because they share a lot of the same symptoms.

Although nasal symptoms are not listed in those for typical migraines, they occur with every attack I have, so they must happen for others as well.

A sinus headache is not an official diagnosis either, but it is a term that physicians often use to describe the symptoms.

The International Headache Society does not recognize the term sinus migraines or sinus headaches. They feel that most people actually suffer from a migraine without an aura, accompanied by sinus symptoms. 

There are even times when it is the other way around and the physician will mistake a migraine symptom for a sinus headache. There are a lot of people who have migraines that never seek medical attention for diagnosis.

They often just say they are having sinus headaches, when they are actually having migraines.

Getting the correct diagnosis here is very important and can help prevent you from taking headache medications for continued sinus problems, which will be ineffective on both sides.

Over the counter headache tablets don't work for moderate to severe migraines, nor do sinus medications. They might make your migraines worse, leaving room for overdose which nobody wants. So, getting the appropriate treatment for a migraine or sinus attack, I think, is crucial.

Sinus Headaches versus Migraines

Sinus Migraines

Research shows that approximately forty-two percent of the patients that have migraines are incorrectly diagnosed by some physicians as having sinus headaches.

42%! That's almost half.

It is my understanding that having a sinus infection is what causes the pain. 

Sinusitis is swelling, or an inflammation, of the tissues that line the sinuses. Your sinuses are usually filled with air. But when they become congested and filled with fluid, germs (like bacteria, viruses, and fungi) grow and can cause an infection.

The symptoms that you might experience when having a sinus attack are:

• Sinus pressure

• Facial pain

• Runny nose

• Teary eyes

• Nasal congestion

• Pulsating pain

• Puffy eyelids

• Headache and localized pain

Sinus headaches do not cause nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or photo-phobia. Some doctors say that migraines do not commonly have a nasal discharge, fever, post-nasal drip, or a sore throat. But I know that with every attack, the right eye swells up and the sinus drips. My husband often says “are you getting a cold?”

Sinus attacks from allergies, like migraines, usually reoccur repeatedly and can impact daily functioning significantly. And having an infection would increase the pain associated with a sinus attack.

So I can see how easy they can be confused, but just remember the sensory sensitivities, nausea and vomiting as a telltale sign of migraine. 

Migraine vs Sinus Headache Treatment

There are numerous medications for migraine treatment. Please read our list of migraine medications, migraine preventative medications and triptan for more details. Generally, the most recent effective migraine abortive medication on the market is the family of triptans.

If you take this at first sign of an attack, you can successfully abort a migraine. If you can’t take one of the triptan family, I highly recommend going through the other medications, one by one, with your physician until you find something that works.

They are strong medications and need to be prescribed by your doctor. You will need pain relief, even if you don’t want to take it all the time. It is good to have it on hand should you need it for a really bad episode. 

A sinus headache, on the other hand, would lead to the prescribing of medications such as allergy antihistamines, antibiotics, and sinus medications.

Keeping a journal of your symptoms and triggers can help with the diagnosis.

You need to know if it's a sinus migraine to treat it effectively.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center the best treatment approach for sinus headaches is to treat the underlying inflammation. Antibiotics or corticosteroids may be the best way to go. They also suggest these lifestyle changes, and you know I love healthy lifestyle choices: 

Sinus Migraines Steam


• Use a humidifier;

• Use a saline nasal spray or try irrigating your nasal passages with salt water;

• Breathe in steam two to four times per day;

• Be proactive with supplements and herbs that will help to prevent colds and flu or at least shorten their duration.

I like using Olive Leaf for infections.

As I always say make sure you talk with your doctor and/or naturopath to find the rights ones to work together with the antibiotics, if you are on them, so they do not interfere. You want to treat your infection and support your immune system.

You can also do relaxation techniques and head and neck stretches. Try these super easy headache migraine neck pain stretches for instant relief at home.

Many of us, who believe our migraines are sinus headaches, may get little relief from over the counter medications. And vice versa! Over the counter headache tablets don’t work for migraines either. It's so important to get the right diagnosis, so you can treat yourself correctly.

End the needless suffering now!

Sinus Migraines More Common Than You Think

Migraines are more common than most people realize they are. They are known to affect approximately 18% of women and approximately 6% of the men in the United States.

These percentages are normally applied to all the other cultures. This adds up to millions of us worldwide. And although this is a relatively high percentage, remember that about half of the migraine headaches, never get diagnosed. I assume these are the very mild ones.

There are 29.6 million chronic sinusitis sufferers in the US alone. Allergies are increasing everyday. I wonder how many of these are misdiagnosed migraines?

What You Can Do Now 

When going to your physician, be sure to keep a log, or some notes in a special migraine journal, to help him/her rule out underlying health issues. Many people simply tell their physician that they have been having sinus problems. Because of patient load, the physician may focus on sinus issues and misdiagnose the migraine.

Sinus migraines confuse us all! For some extra help with sinus migraines here is our migraine diary and symptom tracker to print out so you can start to track some patterns to help you determine if it is in fact migraine with sinus symptoms.

The most recent research says that the best way to manage migraine disease is to combine the traditional approach, medications, with alternative complimentary approaches.

I like being proactive - it's my choice.

I do these:

  • biofeedback and
  • acupuncture to help prevent migraines.
  • If your migraines are severe and chronic I would also suggest considering finding extra migraine support with a professional counselor.


Please remember, you don't have to do all of this alone any longer.



Sinus Migraines References:

1. University of Maryland Medical Center – Sinus Headache
2. Chronic Sinusitis Statistics

Image credit: ginasanders 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: lightwise 123RF Stock Photo


› Sinus Migraines

Click here to rewire your brain for happiness now.

Facebook Comments

With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?