Is Your Migraine Masquerading as a Treatable Sinus Headache?

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Could your sinus headache be masquerading as migraine? If it is, I have the 5-minute headache cure to prove it – but be warned, this is messy!

Post Updated September, 2018

Nearly 30 million people suffer from migraine in the United States. Migraines are intensely painful headaches often felt on one side of the head and behind one eye.

If you’ve ever been afflicted with headaches – as I was before I corrected my horrible forward head posture – you’d probably try anything to relieve the pain!

Recently, following a busy day in practice (25 client treatments), I finished work late and tired. I returned home and had a bit of an unhealthy binge – chips with hummus, bacon sandwich and two small glasses of white wine. That is a very naughty dinner for me.

I went to bed around late (around midnight) with a mild headache. I woke shortly after 3am with a real cracker of a headache. I downed some water from my bedside table, assuming I had a mini hangover (I’m a bit of an alcohol lightweight).

My headache didn’t improve and I couldn’t sleep. At 8am I dragged my tired achy body out of bed and discovered that being upright eased my headache to some degree.

Sinus self treatment

I began to massage my sinuses and shoulders. That gave temporary relief, but the headache was creeping up in scale. I made a strawberry and banana smoothie, wondering if my blood sugars were low. Again, this provided only mild relief.

I’m not afraid of pain but find it interests me. Thanks to a mother (nurse) who rarely medicated us as children. Thank you mum!

By this time the pain behind my right eye and across my forehead was quite substantial – what I believe many would interpret as a migraine headache. I was quite sure I had a sinus headache because applying pressure to my sinuses gave me some relief.

Like any good natural health-obsessed geek, I began to research the sinus headache. Looking at a computer with a stinking headache is definitely NOT something I recommend.

In my research, I stumbled across: Why Alcohol Causes Sinus Congestion on the popular Livestrong blog. If you don’t fancy the research, it’s the histamine in red and white wine that causes inflammation in your sinuses. Bingo! Let’s take a look at some common sinus irritants.

Sinus irritants

1. Wine – My mother asked me once (this is relevant to my story), where I keep the Kleenex and I told her, I don’t have any tissues in the house, because I never blow my nose. The look on her face was priceless! I come from a family of morning honkers. 

2. Pets – My sister might do well removing her Newfoundland dog from their bedroom at night. It’s a dog’s saliva and dander, not really the fur, that’s problematic. An air purifier could help.

3. Bedding Fabric – Don’t forget to check the fabric of your bedding. You should look for fabrics that uses a small micron number. Small numbers mean the weave is tight and harder for dust mites to penetrate. No more than 4-5 microns, but ideally two.

Nasal Irrigation

In my quest to solve the mystery of my cracking headache, I came upon a great article on saline nasal irrigation. Essentially, you flush out the stagnant sinuses using a warm salt water flush. Sea salt is recommended and a dash of baking soda, so it doesn’t sting.

Well, it certainly wasn’t painful – just weird and very snotty (sorry but true). Make sure you have loads of tissues close by. Keep your mouth open or you’ll swallow the salt solution and all the mucous. I forgot to keep my mouth open – I learned the hard way.

If your headache is more right-sided then pour into the left nostril to clear out the right side; but you should really do both sides several times.

Neti Pot

Use a Neti Pot; they are really easy – and many of these pots (like the one in my video above) come with packages of the exact amount of salt solution you need. My pot had 50 sachets included!

You can use just about anything with a pouring spout – syringe, measuring cup. It really doesn’t matter what you choose; just make sure it’s clean (sterile) – give it a good wash out with boiling water first.

After the flush, my migraine was immediately 60% better. Wow! One hour later, my headache was 85% better! From someone who never blows their nose, I’ll be buying some Kleenex for the next time I use my Neti Pot!

So if you have a headache that you think is a migraine and you feel some pressure in your sinuses, maybe you should give nasal irrigation a try. And do let me know, if it eases your headache.

Did your migraine improve? Go away completely after nasal irrigation? I’d love to know how many had a sinus headache masquerading as a migraine. Do share …

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