Sinuses Unlikely Cause for Chronic Headaches

October 9, 2012

The grumbles of sinus headaches are arriving along with cooler rainy weather in many northern areas of the country.  Thankfully drug store shelves are fully stocked with sinus medication for chronic headache sufferers combating symptoms such as pain, nausea and stuffy headedness.  “Nonsense!” say many experts like an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) who wrote an article recently in the Brattleboro Reformer about the number of patients he sees, who mistakenly seek treatment for sinusitis when in fact they have migraines.  If you think your chronic headaches are caused by a sinus problem, think again.  More likely than not, what you need is a migraine treatment!

The American Headache Society cites a research study involving approximately 3000 subjects who had never been diagnosed with migraine, but did in fact claim to have sinus headaches over a 6 month period leading up to the study.  After applying International Classifications of Headache Disorder standards, the researchers found that 88 percent of the subjects were actually experiencing migraines.  This was surprising, since the typical migraine symptoms experienced by the subjects were also accompanied by sinus and nasal congestion and pain in the face.  Since these people were not using migraine treatments, but rather conventional sinus treatments such as anti-histamines, decongestants and nasal sprays, they were not finding relief from their chronic headache symptoms.

According to the American Headache Society, various research studies indicate that many migraineurs in fact experience sinus-like symptoms with migraines, and that in 93 percent of ‘sinus headache’ cases, if two of the following three questions can be answered with ‘yes’, these headaches are likely migraines.

  • Do your headaches interfere with daily obligations and activities?
  • Do you experience nausea with these headaches?
  • Do you also feel bothered by light during these headaches?

If the weather is cooling down and rainy in your neck of the woods, and your sinuses are giving you a headache, reconsider throwing your money out on sinus medication.  It is very likely your chronic headaches are waiting for a migraine treatment instead!


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