What is a Pressure Headache?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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A buildup of pressure in the sinus cavities can sometimes result in what is commonly called a pressure headache. This can occur for a number of reasons including sinus infections, allergies, or even just a cold that causes mucus to become trapped in the sinuses, which can also lead to a sinus infection. Some people will also experience a pressure headache if they are sensitive to changes in the weather; for example, impending snow storms or thunderstorms often cause barometric pressure changes which can occasionally be felt in the sinuses and lead to a headache.

A pressure headache can be quite painful and is often felt in different areas around the front of the head and face, namely the forehead, the cheeks, and around the eyes, which is where the sinuses are located. This is what makes it easy to tell a pressure headache apart from a tension headache, which is often felt around the sides of the head and jaw due to tightness and tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. The pain from this type of headache is sometimes dull and throbbing, and is a relatively constant pain, but may become worse with movement or if the sinuses become further irritated from allergens in the air.


If a sinus infection is the cause of the pressure headache, it will be necessary to visit a doctor in order to receive antibiotics to treat the infection. Allergy medication, either prescription or over the counter antihistamines, can help to prevent headaches in the sinuses as well. Using a neti pot to cleanse the nasal passages with warm saline solution can help to remove irritants, which can be beneficial at preventing colds as well as dealing with seasonal or environmental allergies. There is not much that can be done to prevent pressure headaches from weather changes, unfortunately, but these are relatively rare unless one actually has permanent damage to the sinuses or chronic sinus infections.

Generally, one of the best ways to treat a pressure headache is to choose a combination sinus decongestant and headache medication, which are easy to find in most drugstores. If the headaches are persistent or seem to occur frequently, it may be a good idea to visit a doctor just to be sure nothing else is wrong, since sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate one type of headache from another. For example, dangerously high blood pressure can lead to headaches that feel like pressure headaches, but can indicate a more serious problem.


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Post 3

@donasmrs-- It probably is a sinus pressure headache. Fluctuating air pressure during flights can definitely affect your sinuses. It can also affect your inner ear pressure so the headaches could be due to either one of these. The headache must go away when the pressure in your ears and sinuses level off again after a few days.

You can try using saline nasal spray and chewing gum on flights to prevent pressure from increasing in your ears and sinuses.

Post 2

I have headaches for a few days after taking a flight. Could this be a sinus pressure headache? But how does pressure in an aircraft affect the sinuses?

Post 1

I don't think I've ever had a sinus infection, but I do have problems with my sinuses in the spring and summer when my seasonal allergies act up.

Whenever my sinuses become inflamed from allergies, I develop a chronic pressure headache that lasts as long as my allergy symptoms do. The pain is usually concentrated on my forehead and behind my eyes. Sometimes it's a constant ache and sometimes it's a throbbing pain. I have to take OTC pain relievers every eight hours to keep it under control. Thankfully, the headache goes away when my allergy goes away.

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