We all get the sniffles from time to time, so we all know there’s a wide spectrum of accompanying symptoms. From just needing a packet of Kleenex in your pocket to headaches, jaw tension and sore facial pain, a simple case of the sniffles can feel like a lot more.
Sometimes, sinus pain can intensify at night, resulting in difficulty sleeping, which in turn deprives your body of the rest it needs to heal and recharge.
It’s easy to find yourself wondering, why do my sinuses hurt so badly?
In this short guide, we’ll explain the science behind viruses, bacteria and allergies, and how they can lead to sore sinuses. We’ll also go over some simple, at-home remedies for supporting your sinuses and achieving nasal congestion relief throughout the cold and flu season.
How Colds Cause Sinus Discomfort
How does a simple sniffle transform into facial pain and sinus pressure?
Most colds are caused by viruses, but bacteria, fungi and seasonal allergies can all produce similar sinus symptoms. No matter the root cause of your congestion, your immune system mounts a similar response:
- Pathogens or irritants enter through the mouth or nose and begin to affect the tissue in your sinus cavities.
Your body reacts to the perceived threat by producing more of the chemical histamine, which leads to inflammation. While this is a healthy immune response, it can manifest as tissue swelling and mucus production.
- Mucus and snot are there to help your body capture and clear invading particles. The flip side of this is that as long as the perceived threat remains, so will your helpful mucus.
As your sinuses tissues swell and their cavities fill with thick mucus, your sinus system, head and face may experience increased pressure.
This can lead to a tension headache and other discomfort.
To fully understand the root of the soreness, it’s important to understand the anatomy of your sinuses. Your sinus system extends beyond your nose—there are actually several sinuses:
The frontal sinuses are located on your forehead, just above the eyebrows.
The maxillary sinuses lie near your cheek bones.
The ethmoid sinuses are the three small pairs of sinuses on either side of your nose.
The sphenoid sinuses are behind your eyes.
As fluid builds up in different areas, a range of sensations may follow: your face and cheeks might hurt as your maxillary sinuses become inflamed, or congestion in the sphenoid sinuses can cause pressure deeper inside the skull, resulting in headaches.
Because your ears, nose and throat are all closely related, you’ll sometimes experience sinus pressure in your eustachian tube, which connects your ear and throat. This can result in muffled hearing and earaches, on top of your other symptoms.
Congestion at Night
Have you ever searched why do my sinuses hurt at night when you’re up in the wee hours of the morning with a sinus headache?
There’s a simple explanation.
When you’re sitting or standing upright, gravity helps sinus congestion drain out of your sinuses, down through your nose. When you’re lying down, the sinus fluid has nowhere to go.
That’s why it can be helpful to prop your head up with pillows before you try to go to sleep.
Symptoms and Causes
It’s natural to wonder whether your sore sinuses are a case of an everyday cold, or if you actually need a trip to the doctor.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at the range of conditions that can lead to a stuffy nose and sore sinuses.
A cold is usually caused by a virus that attacks the sinus tissues. Colds can result in other symptoms including headaches, fatigue and low-grade fevers.
Seasonal allergies can cause similar inflammation, although they rarely result in fevers.
By contrast, sinusitis (aka rhinosinusitis) refers to an infection of the sinus tissue, often due to bacteria. To treat sinusitis, you may need a course of antibiotics. In rare cases, sinusitis may be caused by fungus.
Whatever the cause of your congestion, you may experience secondary symptoms including:
- Facial soreness
- Postnasal drip and coughing
- Tooth pain
How can you tell if you have a bacterial sinus infection or fungal sinus infection that requires additional care? Discolored, yellow or green mucus can be a sign that you might want to see a doctor. A fever is also a good tell. If your symptoms don’t clear or decrease in a few days, it’s another sign that you need additional information and help.
Do you have recurring sinus issues?
The following factors can play a role in chronic sinusitis, or sinusitis lasting more than ten weeks:
Nasal polyps – The tissue in your sinuses can form nasal polyps. These noncancerous growths form in clusters, and can range in size from microscopic to a centimeter large. As you can imagine, different numbers and sizes of nasal polyps may differently obstruct the healthy circulation of fluid through and out of the sinuses.
Deviated septums – When the thin wall between your two nasal passages is tilted or slanted, it can block the healthy drainage of mucus out of your nose.
If you have recurring or chronic sinus problems, consult with your primary care doctor, who may in turn refer to you an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist.
How to Relieve Sore Sinuses
Now you know why your sinuses hurt, but how can you help to relieve some of the pressure?
As you probably know, blowing your nose isn’t a cure-all for stuffy sinuses. After all, the mucus is building up in the sinuses behind your eyes and in your cheeks, too.
There are two main ways of how to relieve sinus congestion and pressure:
Thin the mucus so that it can more easily be transported out of your sinuses.
Reduce inflammation through herbs and supplements.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at our trusted ways to do both.
Thin Mucus with Steam and Liquid
When your sinuses are clogged, the first step is draining the mucus.
The only problem? Thick mucus that lies horizontal to your nose or deep in your skull may not easily budge when you blow your nose.
To thin the mucus:
Drink plenty of water. Some find that hot tea works even better.
Shower or take a hot bath. Steam and humidity can help thin mucus as they circulate.
Use a humidifier for extra relief while sleeping or just hanging out.
Drain your sinuses with a neti-pot or nasal spray.
Once you’ve thinned the mucus, blow your nose with abandon to relieve the pressure in your facial muscles.
You may also be able to encourage mucus’ movement with a warm compress, light exercise, or a manual sinus massage.
Some evidence suggests that essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree can help hasten the process, too. That’s why you’ll find them in Vicks Vaporub and other over-the-counter remedies for colds. Stop wondering why do my sinuses hurt when I lay down and start using a dehumidifier and supportive essential oils to improve your sleep quality.
Clear Inflammation With Sinus Supporting Herbs
While the above approaches focus on reducing your symptoms, you can also try working at the root of the issue—treating the sinus inflammation that’s sending your body signals to produce excess snot and a runny nose.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has long used plants and herbs as remedies for clearing congestion and dispelling “coldness” and “dampness,” - the same symptoms Western culture associates with the common cold.
Some of the most commonly used herbs for sinus infection, colds and congestion include:
- Kudzu root
- Angelica root
- Chrysanthemum flowers
- Xanthium fruit
As Western science increasingly researches these ancient allies, it’s clear that these herbs are rich in antioxidant compounds that can help combat cellular damage. In addition, some of them contain unique polysaccharide, or carbohydrate, compounds that can help clear inflammation and sinus infection.
At Plant People, we’ve drawn on ancient knowledge and modern science to create a proprietary blend of herbs for Advanced Sinus Support.
These organic, vegan capsules contain safe, potent amounts of each traditional herb, along with supportive ingredients like licorice root. They can be taken daily to give you support and relief from sinus congestion.
Depressurize with Plant People
Modern life is full of pressure, from the daily grind of working to the sinus pressure that inevitably arises during cold and flu season. At Plant People, our proprietary, plant-and-mushroom based multiplexes are specially formulated to help you decompress.
Do seasonal allergies have you down? Get some relief with Advanced Sinus Support. Need a little extra help to get better sleep and help your immune system thrive? Try out our CBD remedies to support healthy sleep cycles.
Whatever your health goal, you can rest assured knowing that Plant People’s products are derived from organic ingredients grown sustainably in the U.S.A. That way, you’ll receive the best benefits plants have to offer as you integrate new natural allies into your daily routines.
Web MD. Why a Cold Makes Your Sinuses Throb. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/colds
Healthline. Sinus Anatomy, Pictures, and Health. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/sinus-cavities
American College of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology. Sinus Infection. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/sinus-infection
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Could nasal polyps be the cause of your stuffy nose? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/could-nasal-polyps-be-the-cause-of-your-stuffy-nose
The Mayo Clinic. Deviated Septum. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deviated-septum/symptoms-causes/syc-20351710