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Sinus Headaches

Sinusitis is a frequent cause of headaches or facial pain.

The location of the pain corresponds to the sinuses:

  • Maxillary: Cheek, upper jaw, upper teeth
  • Ethmoid: Between the eyes
  • Frontal: Forehead (classic “frontal” headache)
  • Sphenoid: Behind the eyes, on top of the head

If you have headaches in any of these locations in addition to other symptoms of sinusitis, it is possible that sinusitis is causing them.

Causes and diagnosis

Though sinusitis may be purely responsible for headache, it is just as important to establish when a headache is not due to sinusitis.

Headaches can have several other different causes, including:

  • Typical or variant migraines
  • Cluster
  • Tension
  • Vascular headache
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Other atypical facial pain

Facial pain specialists or neurologists may be recommended to help treat your symptoms if one of these conditions is suspected. In some cases, sinusitis and headache disorders occur together, potentially necessitating treatment for both simultaneously.

Sphenopalatine neuralgia is a specific facial pain syndrome involving sharp or stinging sensations in the cheek region that can be addressed surgically by a sinus specialist in a minimally invasive fashion if not responding to other medical therapies. If you have been diagnosed with this, a thorough evaluation can help determine if this is appropriate therapy for you.


Occasionally, a contact point between a spur of the nasal septum and any other nasal tissue can cause facial pain or headache. Applying a decongestant may shrink the tissue enough to eliminate contact and temporarily improve symptoms.

At your physician's office, a topical or injected local anesthetic may also result in temporary improvement. Surgically removing the spur is effective to remove the anatomic contact point.

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