Migraine or Sinus Headache: How to Tell the Difference and Find Relief!


If you've ever had a terrible headache, you know it can ruin your day. While headaches can be caused due to various reasons, sinus and migraine headaches often get mixed up because they have similar symptoms. Let's find out how they're not the same, what makes each special, and how they can be related. Read further to know more about Migraine vs Sinus Headache!

What Is a Sinus Headache?

A sinus headache happens when the spaces around your nose and eyes (called sinuses) get swollen or infected. This causes a dull, achy pain in your forehead, cheeks, and eyes. You might also have a stuffy or runny nose, and your face can feel tender. This pain can get worse if you move suddenly or bend over. Sinus headaches are uncomfortable and can disrupt your daily activities, making it challenging to concentrate or do your usual tasks. They often occur alongside a sinus infection or allergies, making breathing and living comfortably a bit of a challenge.

Some of the common sinus headache symptoms include:

  • Pain and pressure in the forehead, cheeks, and eyes.
  • Nasal congestion, causing a stuffy or runny nose.
  • Facial tenderness, especially over the sinus areas.
  • Increased pain with sudden movements or bending over.

These symptoms are typical indicators of a sinus headache and can significantly affect your daily life.

These symptoms are typical indicators of a sinus headache and can significantly affect your daily life.

What Is Migraine?

A migraine is a severe headache that brings intense pain, typically on one side of your head. It often feels like a throbbing hammer inside your skull. These headaches can make you feel very sick, causing nausea and even vomiting. Bright lights and loud sounds can be excruciating. Some people experience strange things before the headache, like flashing lights or blind spots (auras). They're more than just head pain; they affect your entire body, leaving you feeling weak and exhausted.

Some of the common Migraine symptoms include:

  • Intense, throbbing head pain, often on one side.
  • Feeling like you want to throw up or actually throwing up.
  • Light and loud sounds can bother you a lot.
  • Some people see strange things before a migraine (auras).
  • You feel unwell in general.

Common Symptoms Of Sinus Headaches And Migraines

Following are some of the common symptoms of sinus headaches and migraines include:

Pain or Pressure:

Both can cause head pain, though the location and quality of the pain may differ.

Nasal Symptoms:

Both may lead to nasal congestion and a runny or stuffy nose.

Sensitivity to Light and Sound:

Both can make you sensitive to bright light and loud sounds.


Feeling tired is a common symptom of both types of headaches.

Nausea and Vomiting:

These symptoms are more common with migraines.

Visual Disturbances (Auras):

Migraine sufferers may experience visual disturbances before or during an attack.

Facial Tenderness:

Sinus headaches often result in tenderness in the face, particularly over the sinus areas.

Exacerbation with Movement:

The pain in sinus headaches can get worse when you bend over or make sudden movements.

Post-Nasal Drip:

You may experience mucus running down your throat.

Throbbing Pain:

Migraines often cause a throbbing, pulsating pain on one side of the head.

Aura Symptoms:

Auras can include several things like vision loss, numbness or tingling in the body, difficulty in speaking, etc.

These symptoms help in differentiating between sinus headaches and migraines, as they share some common features but also have distinctive characteristics.

Comparison of Sinus Symptoms With Migraine

When comparing sinus headache symptoms with migraine symptoms:

Pain Location:

Sinus headaches often cause pain and pressure around the forehead, cheeks, and eyes, while migraines typically result in throbbing pain, often on one side of the head.


Sinus headaches are often shorter in duration and usually resolve when the underlying sinus issue is treated, while migraines can last for several hours to days.

Additional Symptoms:

Migraines frequently come with nausea, vomiting, and visual disturbances (auras). On the other hand, sinus headaches may not include these symptoms.

Associated Triggers:

Sinus headaches are often triggered by sinus infections or irritants. At the same time, migraines can be triggered by various factors like stress, certain foods, or hormonal changes.

Response to Medications:

Sinus headaches tend to respond well to decongestants and medications that treat the underlying sinus condition. Whereas migraines often require specific migraine medications for relief.

Accompanying Sensitivities:

Migraine sufferers commonly experience heightened sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia). It may not be as pronounced in sinus headaches.

Feeling Sick:

Both headaches can make you feel nauseous, but vomiting is more frequent with migraines and less common with sinus headaches.

Seeing Strange Things:

Visual disturbances, known as auras, are unique to migraines and don't happen with sinus headaches.

Pulsating Pain:

Migraines often come with a pulsating, throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, which is less typical in sinus headaches.

Post-Nasal Drip:

You may experience mucus running down your throat with sinus headaches, but this is less common in migraines.

Sinus headaches and migraines are linked in a few ways:

Migraine Trigger:

Severe and long-lasting sinus headaches can sometimes kick-start migraines, especially in those prone to migraines. The pain from sinus problems can lead to a migraine.

Similar Signs:

Sinus headaches and migraines have similar signs, like head pain, sensitivity to light and noise, and nose problems. This can make them difficult to differentiate.

Both Together:

Some people have both sinus troubles and migraines. If that's the case, fixing sinus problems as early as possible can lower the chances of getting migraines because of sinus discomfort.

Right Treatment:

Getting the correct diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. If you have both sinus headaches and migraines, treating sinus issues can decrease the frequency of migraines. Doctors can offer better assistance when they understand these connections.


In summary, sinus headaches and migraines have differences in their symptoms. Severe sinus headaches can trigger migraines. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare expert is important for both conditions. Understanding these headaches helps you manage them better. If you're unsure, reach out to a doctor. They'll guide you to relief and a better life without headaches.