How to Treat Sinus Headaches

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 21, 2023
3 min read

Your clogged sinuses can give you pain and pressure above your nose and between your eyes, but the right treatment can bring relief. First, you need to find out if a sinus headache is the cause of your discomfort.

These headaches may give you:

  • Pain and pressure around the sinuses -- in the forehead, especially behind and between the eyes, and above the nose. These areas may be tender to the touch.
  • Pain that gets worse with movement, like bending over or lying down.

If pain is your only symptom, you probably don't have a sinus headache. Those usually have other symptoms as well, including:

Your doctor may suggest treating the pain and the underlying causes of your sinus headache at the same time.

They might recommend:

Over-the-counter painkillers. Drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium may help. Always read and follow the label, and don't use them for more than 10 days at a time without talking to your doctor.

Decongestants. These medicines, which you can buy without a prescription, help open your blocked sinus cavities. They do this by curbing the swelling and mucus in your nasal passages.

Follow the instructions carefully. You shouldn't use nasal decongestant sprays for more than 3 days in a row, or it could make your congestion worse. And don't use oral decongestants for more than 7 days. If you also take a pain medicine, make sure the decongestant doesn't have it as well, so you don't accidentally get too much.

Nasal steroid sprays. In some cases, your doctor may suggest an over-the-counter spray and other drugs to reduce your congestion and pain.

Antihistamines. These drugs may help if allergies cause your sinus problems.

Think moist. Dry air can irritate your sinuses, so use a humidifier or vaporizer. Other options include holding a warm, wet towel over your face for a few minutes or using a saline solution nasal spray.

Use salt water. Get a bulb syringe or neti pot and flush out your sinuses with salt water. It moistens and helps clear mucus from your nasal passages, which cuts down on the pressure. 

Bioelectronic Sinus Device. This device works by using microcurrents to stimulate nerve fibers and helps reduce sinus inflammation, pain, and congestion. It is sold over-the-counter.

Always use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled and cooled water. Rinse the neti pot after each use and let it air dry.

You can also try saline (salt water) nasal sprays to flush out your stuffy nose.

Avoid irritants. Perfume, cigarette smoke, and certain chemicals can irritate your nasal passages and worsen your symptoms.

If home treatments don't work -- or if you have a fever, pain, or swelling of your face or eyes, redness around your eyes or cheeks, severe headache, confusion, or a stiff neck -- see your doctor right away.

If your headaches and other sinus problems keep coming back, surgery can sometimes help if nothing else does. Your doctor can tell you if you're a good candidate, what the risks and benefits are, and what to expect.