Sinus Vs Migraine: Understand The Differences From An Expert To Identify The Condition

Both sinus and migraine are confused to be similar, but the symptoms are very different. Know more about these conditions from an expert.

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Mar 29, 2021Updated at: Mar 30, 2021
Sinus Vs Migraine: Understand The Differences From An Expert To Identify The Condition

Headaches can be a problem for people of all age groups. They vary from sharp pains to mild ones depending on the person and can be caused due to lack of sleep, a problem in the vision or wrong  prescription glasses, stress, loud noise, or tight headwears. However, it can also be a symptom of another underlying condition. So, it is important to pay attention to the severity of the headaches. People generally do not pay much attention to headaches but it does affect their quality of life and mental wellness. Headaches can be exhausting and lead to impairment of lifestyle just like any other life-threatening disease. Anxiety, straining of the muscles, physical and mental stress can trigger headaches.

Headaches take place in different areas of the head like the forehead, temples, and back of the head. The ones triggered due to tension generally go away within a day with the help of good sleep and relaxation. Whereas migraine and sinus-related headaches stay longer and are more painful. They are also recurring in many cases. These headaches should not be neglected and should be identified early for timely treatment. Onlymyhealth editorial team Dr. Samyuktha Samavedan, Consultant ENT Surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospitals, Kondapur, Hyderabad, about the difference between sinus and migraine.

Sinus or Migraine headaches?

Some symptoms of migraine and sinus-caused headaches are quite similar like heavy head while leaning forward, runny nose, pressure in the facial muscle, and congestion in the chest. So, it is important to have a proper diagnosis to recognise the cause to have a suitable treatment plan. Even though there are some similarities, there are also a lot of distinctive factors between the two. It is easier to differentiate between these two conditions on the basis of their basic symptoms and treatment.

Common Symptoms of Migraine


A migraine can lead to major throbbing pain, mostly on one side of the head. It usually comes with some nausea, vomiting, and too much sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks or episodes can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it might intervene with your day to day tasks. So, along with the frequent headaches, there are also other set of symptoms that are associated with migraine and are usually self diagnosable such as:

1. Nasal discharge

Runny nose is often linked with the common cold. But here, the colour and consistency of the discharge needs to be monitored. If one has a runny nose with headache and the consistency is clear and water like, it may be due to migraine. 

2. Nausea

Nausea and vomiting is also a common symptom of migraine. The headaches are so extreme that they create a pressure on the head and facial muscles making one feel the vomiting sensations throughout.

Also read: Tips To Avoid Chronic Sinusitis And Congestion During Seasonal Change

3. Sensitivity

Migraine makes people extremely sensitive to light. One may feel discomfort in a bright place or when out in the sunlight and some also have distorted visions and it eventually leads to headaches. Similarly, loud noises or even a slight increase in the sound can trigger the headaches.

Treatment of migraine

Migraine treatment focuses on reducing the symptoms and preventing any future episodes. A lot of medications have been designed to treat migraines. Your course of treatment depends on the frequency and severity of your headaches and if you have any accompanying symptoms such as nausea and vomitting with your headaches, and it also gets influenced by any other underlying medical conditions you have. To fight this condition, you can try some natural ways at home such as enough exercise, drinking plenty of water, maintaining a sleeping and eating schedule and taking less stress.

Common Symptoms of Sinus


The air-filled sacs behind the nose are called the sinuses. A cold infection can result in sinus infections if these sinuses get inflammed. Air, mucus, and bacteria can get blocked in the swollen sinuses and cause further infection too. As per Dr. Samyuktha, acute sinusitis can happen due to cold or allergies and cause headaches along with other symptoms such as:

1. Body temperature

The sinusitis infection, which is bacterial slowly increases the body temperature as the condition worsens. The sinus region infected by the bacteria then results in headache because of the pressure that inflammation creates. It is a symptom the distinguishes between migraine and sinusitis-triggered headaches.

2. Congestion

The nasal pathway is blocked and causing congestion when the sinus is infected. It creates a slightly yellowish/greenish colour discharge and is comparatively thicker than the migraine discharge. The congested and stuffy nose apply the pressure on the front lobes causing the headaches. Hence, congestion in the nose paired with headaches is always sinusitis. Some also notice distorted sense of smell, itchiness and loss of smell in their nose.

3. Pain in teeth and ear

Another symptom of sinus is pain in teeth and ear. The swollen and inflamed sinus cavities puts the pressure on the organs next to it such as the ear and teeth regions. So, the sudden pain in the teeth and ear combined with headache, is usually diagnosed as sinusitis.

Also read: Is Migraine In Females Different? Know The Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Treatment of sinus

A sinus infection or cold can cause nasal swelling and congestion. It can block the fluid behind your eardrum, that can become a buildup. This may even be painful and put pressure on your ear and nose. A sinus infection can trigger the growth of more bacteria and virus, causing ear infections. Here are some natural ways to help with your acute sinus infection at home:

1. Steam

Steam is the most useful way to clear your nose. If you have a sinus infection, even a doctor will advice you to go for the steaming process. You can even add two to three drops of eucalyptus oil to a very hot bowl of water. Cover your face with a towel and face the bowl directly. Inhale the steam, and it will help in clearing your blocked nasal passage.

2. Nasal spray

nasal spray

Nasal sprays are also very effective in curing congestion and irritation. It helps in flushing out your nasal passages with a saline spray. You just simple have to spray it in your nostril, whilst tilting your head so it flows out of the other nostril. Do this with each nostril. This will help with your sinuses and in removing bacteria.

3. Yoga/rest and sleep

Sleeping and resting is also believed to be really good to provide relief with nasal passage blockage. Moreover, you can try different yogasans that are particularly advised to treat acute sinus infections. It is not exerting and you will feel much better after doing some yoga and meditation.

Also read: There Are 150 Types Of Headaches, And Sinus Headaches Is One Of Them. Here’s What You Need To Know

4. Drink enough fluids

To help flush the virus out of your system, you have to drink enough fluids in a day. However, don't chose cold juices or soft drink but increase the consumption of coffee, tea and even water. Drinking water can really help in eliminating the virus that causes sinus infection.

So, these were the differences between sinus and migraine by Dr. Samyuktha Samavedan. You can try these simple ways to treat acute sinusitis. Migraine on the other hand can be quite challenging to treat with home remedies. You should talk to your doctor before taking any step in both the conditions. And, be aware about all the differentiating symptoms for proper diagnosis and medical treatment.

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