Dr. Menachof, MD, has specialized in conditions around the head, throat, ear, nose, neck and face for over 20 years, and was the first to bring sublingual allergy drops to Colorado in 2005. He has been recognized as a Fellow by multiple academies, named one of America’s Top Facial Plastic Surgeons continually since 2003 and is featured in multiple national publications.
Sinus pain and pressure can make you feel like your head is about to explode. Experiencing this pressure on a regular basis can be frustrating and even limit your daily lifestyle. Most causes of sinus pain, such as sinusitis, will resolve themselves within seven to ten days, but those with symptoms for any longer should consider getting help from an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) expert.
Rest assured, there are a variety of prescription and at-home remedies that can help relieve your sinus pain and pressure. Dr. Michael Menachof, a leading ENT specialist, has created a list of 13 ways to help alleviate your painful sinuses and head pressure.
What Causes Sinus Pain and Pressure?
There are several different conditions or causes that may be the source of your sinus pressure and pain. Sinus infections are the most common cause of intense sinus pain, but other causes and contributing factors include allergies, nasal polyps, deviated septum, and respiratory infections.
When your sinuses are affected by one of the triggers above, the nasal and sinus passages can become swollen and filled with fluid. This fluid has difficulty draining when the sinuses are inflamed, which causes the pressure and often pain that many suffer from. If this inflammation and fluid build-up continues, bacteria can develop and cause a sinus infection, or sinusitis.
Sinus infections can be acute, meaning they last for a shorter length of time and usually heal within the expected seven to ten days. When sinus infections last or recur for several months on end, this is called chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis usually means there is an underlying root cause that needs to be addressed, such as allergies or deviated septum.
Symptoms of Sinus Pain and Pressure
When you experience sinus pain and pressure, there are likely other symptoms that come along with it. If your discomfort is being caused by a sinus infection or allergies you may also experience related symptoms like exhaustion, sore throat, and headache.
Common signs and symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- Facial pain or pressure
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Post nasal drip
- Bad breath
- Difficulty sleeping
13 Tips to Relieve Sinus Pain & Pressure
Breathing dry air can dry out your sinuses, which makes your sinus pressure and pain worse. Breathing in steam helps to moisten your nasal and sinus passages, and also thins out mucus so your sinuses can drain more easily. Taking a hot shower to breathe in the steam can help you reduce your sinus pressure and pain, which can also work well before bed to get a better night’s sleep. You can also inhale steam from hot water in a bowl or mug to help reduce sinus swelling.
A saline wash uses a solution of distilled water and salt to flush out the nasal passages, which can help break up mucus and add moisture to the sinuses. A Neti pot is a popular type of saline flush therapy, also known as nasal irrigation, which has been used effectively for centuries. Using a saline flush regularly can help keep your sinuses properly drained, which will help you avoid sinusitis pain and pressure. Saline solution is also available as a nose spray to help clean out the nasal airways.
Over the counter decongestant sprays can sometimes work to keep your nasal passages moist and your sinuses clear. Be careful when choosing a nasal spray, as some sprays can be harmful if used for a longer period of time. For example, Afrin and similar nasal sprays should only be used for a maximum of 3 days, otherwise symptoms can actually worsen. On the other hand, sprays like fluticasone become more effective the longer you use them.
Getting good rest helps your body fight any infection and speeds up your recovery from inflammation. Sleep cues the body to release hormones that stimulate tissue growth and white blood cell production, which means your body is more effective at healing, attacking bacteria, and fighting viruses. Try to avoid activities or beverages that over-stimulate the body (exercise, caffeine, alcohol, etc.) before bed so you can get the most refreshing sleep possible. Natural sleep aids like melatonin can help if you need them.
Eating spicy foods can help to thin out mucus and clear your nasal passages. Adding hotter peppers, hot sauce or wasabi to your meal regularly can keep your sinus draining well, which helps alleviate and avoid sinus pressure.
Using a humidifier or vaporizer in your home, especially while you sleep, can add moisture to the room and help reduce sinus congestion. Dry air and tobacco smoke can irritate the mucous membranes in your nose, causing inflammation and creating an environment perfect for infection. Be sure to properly and regularly clean your humidifier or vaporizer, or else bacteria in the water may get into the air and make your sinus symptoms worse.
Over the counter medications like decongestants and antihistamines can help temporarily reduce sinus swelling and pain if the root cause of the issue is allergies. These medicines can also reduce other related symptoms like coughing and post-nasal drip. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen may also help with pain and swelling caused by sinusitis, but be sure to confirm they won’t react with any prescription medicines or natural remedies you may be taking already.
Vitamin C is key. Increasing your intake of vitamin C can help you fight off sinusitis faster, reduce your inflammation, and even reduce the duration of your sinus infection or symptoms. Make sure your diet includes a well-rounded balance of veggies and fruits to ensure you are getting your vitamins naturally.
If you have had sinus infections before you likely start to see a pattern for when your congestion and sinus pressure starts to build. If you have seasonal allergies, this is likely a trigger for sinus issues and you should start taking antihistamines or using a saline flush before allergy season hits, not once you already start to feel symptoms. The same goes for other specific allergies like hay, dust, and pet dander. An ENT specialist can help you determine exactly what your allergy triggers are, if this is unclear.
Elevate Your Head
Elevating your head slightly while you sleep can help you avoid sinus symptoms like congestion, pressure and pain. Laying flat allows mucous to build up in your nasal passage and increase nasal obstruction, which often disrupts your breathing and sleep cycle. Propping your head up slightly with a pillow to keep your head above your heart will help your sinuses drain properly and let you sleep more comfortably.
Dehydration makes your nasal passages dry out, which can increase irritation, inflammation and pressure. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day reduces sinus blockage and keeps your nasal passages happy. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the day and avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages which can dehydrate the body. Water is an excellent choice for hydration, but other good choices include broth, tea, ice cubes, and water-based fruits and vegetables.
Sinus pressure can cause you to feel pain or tension in your head and face. Alternative therapy methods such as Biofeedback can teach you to control certain parts of your body to help you relieve this pressure. This technique has been proven successful to relieve headaches and tension using breathing exercises, yoga, and guided meditation.
Exercise can reduce sinus pressure and tension by increasing blood flow, which can temporarily relieve congestion and speed up any healing from infection or damage. While it can feel uncomfortable to exercise when you are under the weather, it can actually help alleviate your symptoms faster.
Get Long Term Relief
While all of the tips above can help reduce your sinus pain and pressure, it is important to realize that these are all temporary relief suggestions that are focused on treating the symptoms – not the underlying cause of your sinus issues. If you experience ongoing sinus symptoms and infections, visit an experienced ENT specialist to get to the root of your sinus issues and find long-lasting relief. Treating your allergies with immunotherapy or expanding your airways with balloon sinuplasty may be options for you to consider to find freedom from sinus symptoms. Book a consultation now to speak with an ENT expert.