Decoding Your Headache: How to Tell If It’s Sinusitis or Migraine


Headaches are a common occurrence for many people, and they can range from mild annoyance to a debilitating condition. Two types of headaches that are often confused with one another are sinusitis headaches and migraines. While both cause intense pain and discomfort, they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Knowing the differences between the two is crucial for effective management and relief. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at sinusitis and migraines, the symptoms that distinguish them from one another, and the various treatment options available for each.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to identify the type of headache you’re experiencing and what steps you can take to manage it.

sinus headache symptoms treatment

What is a headache?

A headache is typically characterized by discomfort or pain in the head or face. It can manifest as a throbbing, constant, sharp, or dull pressure that varies in intensity and frequency. Headaches can occur in different areas of the head and may be classified based on the type and severity of pain experienced.

Types of headaches

More than 100 types of headaches are there, and they vary based on underlying cause, location, and symptoms. We can classify these into two types they are:

Primary headaches result from the abnormal functioning or increased activity of pain-sensing structures in the head, such as nerves, muscles, or blood vessels. Unlike secondary headaches, primary headaches are not associated with any underlying medical condition or disease. Genetic factors can also contribute to some individuals’ increased susceptibility to primary headaches.

Secondary headaches are associated with an underlying medical condition or disease. They are considered a symptom or a sign of an underlying condition rather than a distinct type of headache. Examples of conditions that can cause secondary headaches to include head injury, sinus infection, brain tumor, or high blood pressure.

What is the difference between sinusitis and migraine?

Sinusitis and migraine headaches can often be confused due to overlapping signs and symptoms. Both types of headaches may worsen when bending forward and present with facial pain, nasal congestion, and a runny nose. However, there are a few key differences that can help distinguish between them. In sinusitis headaches, the presence of thick, discolored nasal mucus and fever indicates a sinus infection, which is not typically present in migraine headaches. Additionally, sinusitis headaches often last for days or longer, while migraines typically last for hours to a day or two. By paying attention to these subtle differences, one can accurately identify the type of headache they are experiencing and seek appropriate treatment.

How to identify symptoms of sinusitis headache?

These symptoms are often associated with sinusitis headaches:

  • Pain, pressure, and fullness in the cheeks, brow, or forehead
  • Worsening pain when bending forward or lying down
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Ache in the upper teeth
  • Fever
  • Thick, colored mucus discharge from the nose

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Causes of sinusitis headache

  • Cold
  • Allergies
  • DNS
  • Nasal Polyps

Treatment options

Treatment options include medications to relieve your symptoms. Your ENT doctor prescribes Decongestants, antihistamines, Painkillers, and rarely steroids.

What is a migraine headache?

Migraine headaches are typically characterized by a sudden and intense throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually confined to one side of the head. Nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound are often associated with migraine headaches, lasting anywhere from several hours to a few days. The pain caused by a migraine attack can be so severe that it significantly impacts one’s daily life.

Some individuals may experience a warning symptom called an aura, which can occur before or during a migraine headache. An aura may involve visual disturbances, such as flashes of light and blind spots, or other sensory disturbances, such as tingling on one side of the face, arm, or leg, or difficulties with speech. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.


  • Mood swings
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of vision


  • Stress
  • Certain food
  • Medicines
  • Hormonal changes
  • Drinks
  • Seasonal changes

Treatment for migraine

Migraine headaches can be treated with a combination of pain-relieving medications and preventive medications. Pain-relieving medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers and rarely steroids.

How to prevent migraine headaches?

Several lifestyle changes may help prevent or reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. These include:

  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Establishing a regular sleep routine and aiming for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Eating regular, balanced meals and avoiding foods that can trigger migraines, such as caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners.
  • Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Keeping a headache diary to track potential triggers, symptoms, and patterns.
  • Exercising regularly, such as with low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or cycling.

About the author

Dr.GVK Chaitanya Rao | Best ent doctor hyderabad

Dr. Chaitanya Rao, Managing director at Dr. Rao’s ENT group of hospitals has 10 years experience in the field of ENT.

His special areas of interest include Nose & sinus surgeries, Otology, Snoring and sleep apnea surgeries. During his Post-graduation itself he was invited as a visiting physician to House Institute of Medical sciences, Los Angeles; Rhinology and Anterior skull base unit, Ohio State University Medical Centre, Columbus, Ohio and University of Michigan from where he picked up his skills.

He plays a key role (Course Director & co-ordinator) in giving hands on training to around 150 ENT surgeons every year from all around the world for initiating and improving their ENT surgical skills as a part of Hyderabad ENT Research Foundation initiatives.

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