Why Does My Whole Head Hurt When My Sinuses Are Congested?

As we breathe, air flows into our nose up through our sinuses and down into the lungs. The sinuses are a system of cavities lined with soft tissue and a light coating of mucus to help moisten and filter the air we breathe. In order to understand why your whole head might hurt when you have a sinus issue, you need to understand the different sinus cavities people have. They are:

  • Maxillary sinuses – These are the largest sinus cavities and they are situated near the cheekbones on both sides of the nose.
  • Frontal sinuses – Above the bridge of the nose in the forehead are the frontal sinuses—one on each side above a good portion of each eyebrow.
  • Ethmoid sinuses – These sinuses sit behind the bone at the inside corner of each eye.
  • Sphenoid sinuses – This last group sits a good bit behind the ethmoid sinuses.

No doubt you’re already recognizing how the pain you feel with sinus congestion or an infection matches up with the different sinus locations described above.

In order to function properly, the sinuses need to be able to drain freely. Allergies, infection and other irritation can inflame the sinus tissue and narrow air passageways. This inflammation is what causes pain. Inflammation in the frontal sinuses often causes us to shut our eyes and press our fingers around the bridge of our nose. Now you know that when you have this sort of headache, it’s most likely due to a problem in your sinuses.

The maxillary sinuses in the cheeks can drive pain into your teeth and jaw bone. Pain in the frontal sinuses, especially when combined with congestion or inflammation in the ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses, can send pain across your forehead, behind your eyes and nose and back toward your ears.

If you have inflammation in more than one or all of your sinus cavities, you can see how your entire head might be in pain.

Relieving the sinus headache pain

Some sinus problems can be prevented with regular use of a Neti pot or other rinsing agent to keep your nasal and sinus passages moist.

Once you have that sinus pain, you can relieve the headache with acetaminophen-based products, like BC® Sinus Pain & Congestion powder, that contain acetaminophen as well as an antihistamine and nasal decongestant to help relieve congestion, runny nose and sinus pain.

If your symptoms don’t respond to over-the-counter remedies, you think you have a sinus infection or you have other chronic health conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor to get the treatment you need.