Do Chronic Sinus Problems Cause Headaches?

Treatment for  headaches in San FranciscoWe have been providing treatment for headaches in San Francisco for 20 years now. During this time many of our patients have had sinus related headaches.  You know, these are the headaches that hurt over the sinuses (above the eyes or in the cheek bones next to your nose) and, when you blow your nose, it’s not pretty!  Sinus infections often lead to sinus headaches – wouldn’t you say that’s a true statement?

            A recent November 2011 study begs to differ. Researchers took 58 patients with a diagnosis of “sinus headache” made by their primary care physician and asked them the following questions:

  1. Have you had a previous diagnosis of migraine or tension-type headache?
  2. Is their clinical evidence of a sinus infection during the past 6 months?
  3. Is there the presence of  “mucopurulent secretions” (that’s the “not so pretty stuff” when we blow our nose)?

            All 58 patients clearly seemed to have chronic sinusitis with an acute flair up and were given complete thorough examinations by a neurologist and an ears, nose, throat specialist (otolaryngologist) on a monthly basis for 6 months during treatment. The surprising results showed that final diagnosis in these 58 cases were 68%, 27% and 5% of the patients really had migraine, tension-type headache and chronic sinusitis with recurrent acute episodes, respectively. Treatment during the 6 months included antibiotic therapy in 73% of the patients with tension-type headache and 66% with migraine. Sinus endoscopy (taking a look up the sinuses with a scope – ouch!) was performed in 26% of the patients, and therapeutic nasal septoplasty (surgery!) was performed in 16% of the migraine patients and 13% of patients with tension-type headache (a pretty BIG mistake, wouldn’t you say?).  The conclusion was that many patients with self-described or primary care physician diagnosed “sinus headaches” have no sinonasal abnormalities, but instead, met the criteria for migraine or tension-type headache.

            So, what does this mean?  Well, for one thing, too many antibiotics are prescribed for tension-type or migraine headaches and have no place in the treatment process of these two common headache categories.  Side effects of antibiotics include (but are not limited to):  stomach and intestinal irritation, nausea, and if one is allergic to the antibiotic, a potentially life-threatening condition call anaphylactic shock.  Let’s not forget to mention that sinus surgery was performed in 29% of the cases where the sinuses were NOT causing the headaches and we all know the risks of undergoing anesthesia and surgery can include death and infections, among other problems.

            Chiropractic was reported to be a wise choice in the treatment of headaches by several publications, one of which provided a large review of the literature on the “Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report,” released in 2010 ( In this report, both migraine and cervicogenic-type (headaches that start in the neck) headaches were found to have strong research support for manipulation or, chiropractic adjustments. In this day and age, you can be very confident that choosing chiropractic services for headache treatment is a wise, safe, and very cost-effective approach for a very disabling condition.

            We realize that you have a choice in where you choose your health-care services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for headaches, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

To schedule an appointment with a San Francisco Headache Doctor, call 415-392-2225. Mention this blog post and receive a complimentary consultation and headache assessment.

Eben Davis

I am a Chiropractor in the San Francisco Financial District specializing in chronic neck, arm and hand pain. I also treat herniated discs using spinal decompression, whiplash, sports injuries, headaches, and Fibromyalgia. My clinic is certified in the use of Deep Tissue Laser Therapy with the LiteCure LCT-1000 for conditions such as shoulder pain, TMJ and Plantar Fasciitis. I have been in practice for over 20 years.

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3 thoughts on “Do Chronic Sinus Problems Cause Headaches?

  1. mk

    Remember your body will always try to heal itself. If someone has symptoms its because of interference within a system in the body. Chiropractic provides opportunity to the body to heal itself. Pharmaceuticals drugs today are used with such acceptance that we forget about healing from the inside out.
    Chiropractic may provide you more than just ridding of symptoms we will teach you about the cause.
    Most of my patients are amazed when I explain how headaches happen and how chiropractic can help.

  2. Dr. David Livingston

    My patients who choose a spinal adjustment/checkup when a cold is imminent, always report quicker healing, a more expedient return to work/school/sports and less intense symptoms. Thanks for posting this Doc Davis.

  3. Chicago chiropractor

    My experience in 11 years of practice is that most headaches are cervicogenic in nature, and often are disdiagnosed as migraines. It’s amazing how few patients exhibit the true symptoms of migraines, classical or common, and think they’re doomed to a lifetime of them. Then, a little upper cervical adjustment, and they report immediate, long-lasting improvement!

    Dr. Halliday
    TITLE: Heather Cordle
    BLOG NAME: Heather Cordle
    DATE: 12/27/2011 12:56:31 AM
    Thanks so much for the blog post. Awesome.


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