Migraines Vs. Sinus Headaches – Identifying the Differences

Difference between Migraines and Sinus Headache

A telling study revealed that 86% of patients who were convinced their headaches were sinus related were actually experiencing migraines. What is the cause of this discrepancy? In order to sort things out, we have to take a closer look at both sinus headaches and migraines so as to decode the differences between the two. Then, we will help you get out from under the burden of chronic headache conditions by sharing with you a natural technique that has assisted many people to attack headaches and migraines at the underlying source.

Are Sinus Headaches and Migraines Similar in Some Ways?

The obvious answer is yes, otherwise the number of people who confuse the two conditions would not be so great. However, the reason for the confusion is usually a lack of understanding of migraines. Let’s start with a couple of obvious symptoms that link the two conditions:


A sinus headache occurs when sinus congestion creates pressure and leads to head pain. Migraines are a neurological condition. A headache is just the most common symptom. Some people get confused because they think a migraine has to be the worst headache of your life. However, migraines can present with moderate to severe head pain. More often than not, the accompanying symptoms help identify a migraine and not the head pain in general. Migraines are also known for headaches that throb, grow worse with exertion, or are one-sided. However, you may not experience all of these symptoms.

Sinus problems

People immediately assume that sinus problems plus headaches equal sinus headaches. But that is based on the false premise that the sinus pressure was first and that it caused the headache. Migraines can lead to both headaches and sinus pressure, so you can’t exclude migraines as a diagnosis just because you get a runny or stuffy nose on the same day as your headaches.

The other big issue that compounds the confusion between sinus headaches and migraines is how quick some physicians are to prescribe antibiotics. You may be diagnosed with a sinus headache and provided an antibiotic for a sinus infection. You take the pills and feel better in a couple of days, so it must have been a sinus infection and headache, right?

Here are a couple of other options:

  • Migraines only last a day or two usually. So you start to feel better within a day or two because the migraine is over, not because the antibiotics are treating an infection. It is no surprise that the sinus pressure and headaches may start back up right after you stop taking the antibiotics. It’s not a new infection, it’s just the next migraine.
  • The placebo effect is very powerful. Don’t worry – placebos are not something that only affects hypochondriacs. It is a proven fact that people sometimes feel better simply because they are told they are taking a pill that will make them feel better. So if you genuinely believe you have an infection and need an antibiotic, you may feel better after taking it, even if your real problem is migraines. When new drugs are tested, the placebo group just about always has good results as well. The medication has to have even better results than the placebo to prove that it is actually doing something.

With these factors in mind, let’s take a moment to discuss the differences between sinus headaches and migraines so that you can have a better idea of which you are dealing with. Remember, though, to always seek a professional diagnosis. This is informational only.

What Sets Migraines Apart from Sinus Headaches?

Migraines have many other symptoms besides a headache and the potential for sinus issues. Here are some things to watch out for that would indicate that a migraine is the more likely problem:

Sensory sensitivity

After headaches, this is the next most common migraine symptom. Bright lights, repetitive sounds, and strong smells may all seem unbearable during an attack, even if those kinds of things don’t usually bother you.

Neck pain

This is an often-overlooked symptom of migraines. In fact, about 75% of migraine patients say that neck pain occurs either before or during their headaches. We will address the connection between the neck and headaches in just a moment.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea is also extremely common during a migraine. Fortunately, it only reaches the point of vomiting for a smaller portion of patients but feeling like you are going to be sick any second can be almost as debilitating as actually throwing up.

These are just a few of the many symptoms that migraine sufferers have to deal with on top of headaches and other symptoms that are comparable to sinus problems.

Finding Natural Relief from Headaches and Migraines

Migraines and headaches have something to do with the brainstem, proper flow of blood to the brain, and intracranial pressure. These are all factors that can arise due to misalignment of the atlas (C1 vertebra, located at the top of the neck).  The atlas surrounds the brainstem, right at the crucial juncture where it meets the spinal cord. Even the slightest misalignment can affect communication throughout the central nervous system. A subluxation can also affect blood flow or cerebrospinal fluid drainage (the latter of which may lead to increased pressure in the skull).

Because of these factors, it just makes sense to see an upper cervical chiropractor if you are experiencing migraines or headaches. This subspecialty of chiropractic offers safe and gentle adjustments that specifically target the atlas. To learn more, schedule a consultation with a practitioner in your area today.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.