There are several types of headaches and what causes them can range from the mundane (too little sleep) to the dangerous (a brain tumor). Some of the most common types of head pain are tension-type headaches and migraines. If commercials on television are any indication, headaches caused by sinus problems also seem to be quite common.
A 2008 study (J Headache Pain 2008; Jan 25) tried to determine just how many common headaches are actually caused by a sinus problem, such as an infection (e.g. sinusitis). Sinus pain may also include other problems such as fever, cough, nasal discharge, and postnasal discharge. The researchers looked at 310 children who had long-term and recurring headaches and found that sinus problems were the root cause of headaches in only 1% of the children in the study. However, about 40% of the patients with migraines and 60% of the patients with tension-type headaches were misdiagnosed with “sinus headaches.” The researchers concluded that children with chronic and recurrent headaches are frequently misdiagnosed with sinus headaches and may receive unnecessary sinusitis treatment.
As with any health condition, it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis before proceeding with treatment. It’s also important to treat the cause of a problem rather than just its symptoms. By some estimates, 15-20% of headaches originate in the neck and many physicians overlook this area when a patient seeks treatment for headaches. There is also some scientific evidence that suggests patients with migraine and tension-type headaches can also benefit from chiropractic care aimed at restoring normal function to the neck.