If you’ve ever had a sinus headache, you know what a real pain it is (literally and figuratively speaking). There are many over-the-counter medications you can take to help relieve a sinus headache, but you may want to think twice before you resort to those all the time. Why? Because even though these options may cover up the symptoms of your sinus headache temporarily, they’re not the best for treating it long-term and don’t address the real issue at hand.
What a Sinus Headache Feels Like
A sinus headache will feel as though you have a tight clamp on each side of your head, and you’ll feel this due to pressure caused by a build-up of fluids. You’ll also usually feel your nasal passages clogged and likely have problems with mucus in your throat. You may find yourself constantly coughing or trying to clear your throat with corresponding tension headaches when suffering (whether daily or occasionally).
It’s not exactly what you’re suffering from? Then you need to check if you have one of the following headaches instead and learn about how to deal with it:
Causes of Sinus Headaches
Research shows that sinus headaches are the result of overall body inflammation – not actually from allergies alone. Other possible causes of sinus headaches include a respiratory infection, congestion due to mucus build up in the body or an illness such as the flu. Allergies can also trigger sinus headaches or exacerbate existing ones.
Normal sinus pathways allow mucus to drain and air to circulate through the lungs and nasal passages, but when inflammation occurs in the body, these pathways and processes don’t work as they normally would. This can lead to a host of negative issues because blocked nasal passages are the perfect breeding ground for harmful viruses and bacteria that can affect you long-term.
Colds are a common culprit for triggering sinus headaches, but those who swim frequently, suffer from asthma or hay fever, and those with nasal polyps or facial tumors may also be more susceptible than other people.
Natural Options for Relieving a Sinus Headache
First, you’ll want to check with your doctor to make sure you have a sinus headache and not something else. Once he or she diagnoses you, here are natural remedies you can do at home to relieve inflammation and even the possible cause(s) of your sinus headaches:
1. Remove all possible allergenic foods
Many people are allergic to certain foods they are eating which is causing the inflammation and mucus build-up. Common allergens are gluten (wheat, barley, rye), just wheat, dairy, soy, and although it’s not an allergy, excessive refined sugar intake can also lead to inflammation and mucus build-up. Consider removing these from your diet to see which ones may be causing issues for you, and then reintroduce each one, one at a time to see if the food is causing mucus build-up for you or overall inflammation. Check labels on all foods you buy, and consider an elimination diet which may also be effective.
2. Drink plenty of water and avoid excessive caffeine and sugar.
Excessive caffeine and sugar intake can trigger inflammation as well as headaches due to the way they affect blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels when they leave the bloodstream. Be sure to drink plenty of water which is your best option for getting your lymph fluids flowing. Warm (low-sodium) broths may also be helpful as well.
3. Use a humidifier to help you breathe more easily.
Place a humidifier in your room each night and let it run while you sleep. This can help you wake up a little clearer in the morning because it helps get mucus moving through the body so you can breathe more easily.
4. Use cold packs on your head to relieve pain.
Ice packs can help dispel the pain from your head by triggering a unique process in the bloodstream and nerve pathways to help relieve pain. You can make cold packs from ice yourself with ice cubes and cloth or plastic baggies. Or, you can buy ice packs at your local drugstore. Place the ice pack on your head ensuring it covers the sides of your head and nose for at least 30 seconds. Consider taking a hot bath each night as you do so for greater effects.
5. Rub peppermint oil on the sides of your head.
Rubbing peppermint oil on your the sides of your head can help relieve pain quickly and the menthol will also help you breathe more easily. Be sure to rub it in for a few minutes, gently massaging the sides of your head as you do so.
6. Drink some warm lemon ginger tea.
Make your own warm cup of tea with fresh ginger root and lemon slices. Just let them steep in boiling water for at least 5 minutes, then strain and drink the tea a few times a day. (You can also just make this tea in a French press.) Lemon and ginger both help relieve inflammation, pain, and can clear mucus from the body.
7. Use over-the-counter sprays as the last option or as a complimentary treatment.
If you need additional care when you’re trying to survive your sinus headache, use saline sprays as a last option or complimentary treatment. Just be mindful that these don’t treat the actual cause of your sinus headache even though they do serve as helpful aids.
Everyone suffers from sinus headaches for various reasons, so do your best to address the real cause of your sinus headache, and speak with a trusted naturopath or medical professional who is willing to help you through the process.
To learn more about natural options to relieve general headaches, check out these options that can help you do so without medication.
Featured photo credit: Flickr / Gonzalo Malpartida via flic.kr