Is it a sinus headache or migraine?

Find out how to tell the two apart.

Sinus headaches and migraines can have similar symptoms, making them hard to tell apart.  

Migraines are easy to mistake for sinus headaches and vice versa. Sinus headaches cause discomfort in the sinuses—centered around the cheekbones, bridge of the nose and foreheadYou may feel mild to moderate dull pain in these areas. You may also feel the exact same pain if you have a migraine. So how do you tell the difference? Look for key symptoms. 

Sinus headaches 


Because there is no specific clinical definition for a sinus headache, they are often hard to diagnose. However, there are some telltale symptoms associated with sinus. These include facial pain and pressure, headache and sinus and nasal congestion. If you have a headache that you think might be a symptom of a sinus headache, ask yourself this: Have you noticed a fever, pus from your nose, change in smell or bad breath? These symptoms are rare in cases of migraine and likely mean a sinus headache is the source of your discomfort. 

Treatment Options 

Try an over-the-counter pain reliever such as such as Ibuprofen or aspirin. Another option is to use cold packs to help relieve discomfort. 



Migraines present with similar symptoms to sinus headaches. According to the American Migraine Association, 90% of self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraines. Like sinus headaches, migraines can cause severe pain and a pulsing sensation, typically on one side of the head. 

Symptoms unique to migraines are nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. Unlike with sinus headaches, some people who experience migraines have a warning symptom called an aura. Auras can include visual disturbances, such as flashing lights and blind spots, as well as other sensory disturbances like tingling on one side of the body and difficulty talking. 

Treatment Options 

Acetaminophen is a generally safe way to help relieve migraine headaches and pains if you follow recommended dosage guidelinesMigraine patches can also help soothe migraine headaches and because they are drug-free they are safe to use with other medications. 

Always good advice: Talk to your doctor 

Headaches and migraines differ from person to personFrom over-the-counter medicines to cold packs and migraine patches, you have options at your fingertips. And remember: You don’t have to deal with headaches or migraines on your own. If you aren’t sure how to treat chronic headaches, you can always reach out to your doctor.