Sinusitis is an extremely prevalent problem worldwide. In the US, some 29 million adults were diagnosed with it in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure doesn’t include the majority who prefer to treat their symptoms at home.
Like any other type of discomfort, sinusitis pain can be disabling, causing disruption in our daily activities, affecting work and school productivity as well as raking up $11 billion in treatment costs in the US alone.
If you’re part of this statistic, it’s time to stop the misery and understand what causes sinusitis. In this article, we will consider the following unconventional self-care tips that may be more effective than your usual sinus pain remedies.
What are the sinuses?
Sinuses are cavities in the bones around your face and above your eyes. There are four sets of sinuses located in your forehead cheekbones and on each side of your nose bridge.
The 4 sets of sinuses
The largest sinuses, which span about an inch across your cheekbones, are called the maxillary sinuses. On the lower part of your forehead, close to the brow line, are your frontal sinuses. Your ethmoid sinuses are located between your eyes, and the sphenoid sinuses are situated in the bones behind your nose.
Inside our nose are ridges called turbinates. These are our body’s natural air filters and humidifiers. Most of the sinuses drain into the nose through a drainage channel called the middle meatus.
A soft tissue called mucosa lines the sinuses, which should contain no more than a thin layer of mucus.
What could go wrong with our sinuses?
More than improving voice resonance, our sinuses have several important functions in our body. Its most essential purpose is to produce mucus to hydrate the insides of our nose and to filter the air that passes through them, getting rid of dust, dirt and other pollutants and irritants.
When our sinuses are blocked, it cannot function properly, leading to headaches, clogged noses, sinus or facial pain, sneezing, congestion and a host of other symptoms.
What is sinusitis?
Cilia, the tiny hairs in the nasal passages, are constantly on the move to maintain mucus level in the sinuses. When sinusitis develops following the swelling or inflammation of the nasal and sinus pathways, the cilia stop moving and the mucus get stuck. The resulting mucus buildup mixes with air, causing sinusitis pain and, later, infection.
This infection may be caused by bacteria, virus or, in rare instances, fungi. Virus remains the main perpetrator for most rhinosinusitis cases.
What’s the difference between acute and chronic sinusitis?
Sinusitis, which is also called rhinosinusitis, can bug some people for a few weeks, but some suffer for months. Both conditions have similar symptoms, so it’s hard to pinpoint which one you have.
The glaring difference is the time frame for each attack. Acute sinusitis lasts a maximum of four weeks, while chronic sinusitis persists for more than three months despite treatment. There’s also subacute sinusitis that lasts for over a month but not more than three months.
You will have several bouts of acute sinusitis before being diagnosed with chronic sinusitis.
While acute sinusitis is commonly triggered by colds, chronic sinusitis has more serious underlying causes, among them nasal polyps and structural problems in the nasal cavity. Chronic sinusitis is defined as a persistent inflammation rather than a long-term infection.
What are the symptoms of sinusitis?
Most sinusitis sufferers experience a few or most of the following:
- Increased mucus production that ironically causes nasal congestion
- Cheek discomfort
- Facial pain (especially on the forehead or around the eyes and nose) that worsens when you bend over
- Ear pressure
- Dental pain
Conditions associated with sinusitis and their symptoms
Nasal polyps – These pinkish, small, soft and benign growths in the nasal passages or sinuses develop for various reasons, and they start as an inflammation due to chronic sinus infections, nasal allergies, specific immune disorders and asthma.
Symptoms: Breathing problems, post nasal drip, facial pain, headache, snoring, frequent nosebleeds, persistent clogged nose and decreased smelling sensitivity.
Hay fever or allergic rhinitis – This condition develops when the body’s immune system overreacts and mistakenly identifies something in the environment as an irritant. Allergens can be anything from dust mites, pet dander and pollen.
Allergic rhinitis can be very limiting to some people as they cannot stay in the outdoors for a long time, nor will they be able to stop and “smell the roses”.
Symptoms: Nasal congestion, excessive sneezing bouts, itchy nose, eyes, mouth and fatigue, likely due to sleep deprivation.
Deviated septum – When the thin wall between your nasal passages is too far or displaced to one side, it can obstruct the air flowing in and out of the nostrils.
Symptoms: Noisy breathing or breathing difficulties, nose bleeds and facial pain.
What are the risk factors for sinusitis?
These can increase your chances of developing sinusitis:
- Prolonged use of nasal sprays
- Specific health conditions such as cystic fibrosis, HIV infection, diabetes
- Air pollution
- Structural problems with the nasal passages
- Pressure changes (scuba diving, travelling to high altitudes)
5 unusual treatments for sinusitis pain
Congestion, facial pain and pressure are the hallmark symptoms of sinusitis. These disrupting symptoms last for a fews days to a few months, as in the case of chronic rhinosinusitis.
At home, you can try the following remedies:
1. Alternate hot and cold compresses
Most websites advise you to apply warm packs, citing that heat is a natural nasal decongestant. However, we’re talking about easing pain and inflammation here, and cold therapy works better.
Actually, alternating hot and cold therapies may be best to relieve facial pain and pressure. The cold pack relieves pain while the warm pack relieves nasal congestion.
How to do it: Start with a warm pack for three to five minutes. Then, place a cold pack on your sinuses and let it stay there for about 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle for at least four times throughout the day. Place a thin cloth between your skin and the pack to avoid an ice burn.
This form-fitting facial ice pack offers a convenient yet potent hot or cold therapy that heals all types of facial pain and inflammation caused by sinusitis, migraine and other symptoms.
More than alleviating pain, this facial ice pack is also effective in relieving tired eyes and in giving you a glowing skin. No wonder beauty bloggers voted it as the top skin improvement product.
2. Spice up your plate to ease sinus pressure
Chillies are rich in capsaicin, the compound responsible for making them spicy and hot. Capsaicin is believed to be effective in managing pain. In fact, many over-the-counter pain relief creams list capsaicin as a main ingredient.
3. Rattle and hum for sinus pain relief
Now you have a good excuse to annoy your housemates: Go out and hum your favourite song for an hour to ease sinus pain. We’re not even kidding. Researchers in Sweden discovered that humming increases nasal ventilation, meaning it could help clear your clogged sinuses and ameliorate discomfort.
The same study indicated that humming enhances the production of nitric oxide, a compound known to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure.
4. Manage pain with your mind
Yoga, meditation and other relaxation exercises can be effective in easing most forms of body pain. They work by tapping mental power to reduce pain perception and sensitivity. Practicing these may be extremely helpful especially to persons suffering from acute or chronic sinus pain.
5. Reduce alcohol consumption
We hope we didn’t need to tell you this, but you shouldn’t chug alcohol while nursing a sinus infection. Alcohol aggravates sinusitis symptoms because it dehydrates the body, causing your nasal cavities to swell and worsening mucus congestion.
How to prevent sinusitis
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent rhinosinusitis, but you can reduce your chances of a sinusitis attack, or prevent it from getting worse, by following these tips:
- Drink lots of water to lubricate your throat
- Irrigate and clear your nose by using nasal sprays or washes
- Elevate your head when sleeping to avoid mucus from pooling
- Use a humidifier if the air is dry to keep your nasal passages from drying out
- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
- Avoid sinus pressure from getting worse by keeping your head upright or leaning it a bit backward
- Stay away from allergens
When it comes to exploring natural remedies for sinus pain and pressure, leave no stone unturned and explore as many options as you can. Each person responds differently to specific treatments, and unconventional does not mean ineffective.
How about you? Have you tried any of these five unusual sinus pain relief tips? Share your experience with us here, and don’t forget to check out our cool products.