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Sinus Pressure Without Congestion

Sinus Pressure Without Congestion

Tripment, Inc
Tripment Health Team

Sinus pressure is a common condition, especially in cold months when the dry air can irritate your sinuses. Sinus pressure can present through a variety of symptoms, many of which overlap with symptoms of migraine headaches. How can you tell when your symptoms indicate a sinus issue, and what's the fastest way to find relief?

What is sinus pressure?

The hallmark of sinus pressure, or sinusitis, is a dull ache in your sinuses caused by inflammation and/or swelling in your nasal passages. Your sinuses are four cavities in your head that are connected by small passages. Sinuses make mucus, which drains out of your nose, cleansing these passages of bacteria and other allergens. However, when these pathways become irritated or inflamed, mucus can build up and cause pain or pressure in the sinuses. Weather, seasonal allergies, or viruses like the common cold can trigger these symptoms. A deviated septum can also contribute to frequent sinus pressure. If you have sinus pressure, it is important to figure out the underlying cause  through testing. Recognizing this can help prevent recurrent sinus pressure.

Sinus headache vs. migraine

Sinus headache

Sinus headaches are headaches caused by pressure in your sinuses. You may feel this pressure most acutely around your eyes, forehead, and cheeks. 


Some symptoms of sinus headaches include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Pain and pressure around your eyes, forehead, cheeks, teeth, and ears
  • Sinus pressure on one side of the face
  • Fever
  • Stuffy nose
  • Swollen face
  • Nasal discharge
  • Head congestion without nasal congestion

Often, sinus headaches don’t include all of these symptoms. For example, many people report feeling sinus pressure without nasal mucus discharge. You can also have sinus pressure without ever having a stuffy nose. 

If you have a sinus headache, you can do a few things to relieve the pain and help your sinuses heal faster:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication. Medicine like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help relieve some of the headache pain
  • Steam and water vapor can help keep the sinuses moist as dryness continues to irritate them. A hot bath or inhaling the steam from a humidifier can allow moisture to loosen up the mucus in your nose that hasn't been draining properly
  • Avoid strong smells, chemicals, and smoke. These can further irritate your nasal passages and cause your headache to worsen, prolonging your condition
young woman is having sinus pressure or migrane


A migraine is a severe headache that usually causes intense throbbing or pulsing pain.


Migraines and their intensity can vary from person to person. Some symptoms of a migraine attack include:

  • Pain on one side of the head, but sometimes on both sides 
  • Nausea and vomiting  
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling very warm or cold
  • Abdominal pain

Bring to a doctor, there are a couple of things you could try:

  • Stay away from any harsh or bright light. Sit in a dark, quiet room away from external stimuli that could aggravate a light sensitivity
  • Put an icepack on your scalp, forehead, or neck. This can help create a numbing sensation which can alleviate some of the pain
  • Keep hydrated. Some people report getting migraines when dehydrated. Dehydration can also irritate an already existing migraine. 

Key differences between migraines and sinus pressure

It can be difficult to recognize the difference between a sinus headache and a migraine. Up to 80% of reported sinus pressure is actually due to a migraine. While both share common symptoms, there are some key differences that can help you distinguish between the two. 

Symptoms Sinus Headache
Chronic headaches




Sore throat


Stuffy nose

Nasal discharge

Sensitivity to light or noise

Pain around forehead

Pain on one side of the head

Pain around eyes

Pain around cheeks, nose, ear, and teeth

Bad breath

Lack of sense of smell

When to see a doctor

For sinus pressure, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor when symptoms, especially a fever, persist for more than a few days. Tripment Health can help you schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment with a primary care provider near you. If you are experiencing sinus pressure without congestion or similar symptoms, a healthcare provider can help you develop a targeted treatment plan. 

Lab tests for sinus pressure

If your sinus pressure symptoms are severe and persist over a long period of time, our provider may order diagnostic imaging to determine if the cause could be due to a more serious abnormality within the brain or surrounding tissue.

Diagnostic imaging for sinus pressure

If you suffer from severe symptoms of migraines, you should discuss treatment options with our doctor. Severe symptoms include:

  • Loss of balance, numbness or tingling, inability to move parts of your body
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck or rash
  • Pain that wakes you up at night
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble with speech
  • Seizures

When symptoms begin to impact your day-to-day life, or cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, you should see a doctor and figure out the next steps. 

Sinus pressure symptoms can easily be confused with migraine symptoms, and the two conditions are frequently mistaken for each other. Symptoms also manifest differently between individuals, so it's important to  see a doctor to develop a treatment plan that's just right for you. 

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