As we suffer through another allergy season, many of us are suffering our own particular brand of punishment. For many people this means a runny nose and irritated eyes. But for some people, it means sinus headaches.
How Allergies Cause Sinus Headaches
Allergies are when your body has an immune response to something that is harmless, like pollen. This immune response may include inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. These swollen, painful tissues can be felt in the cheeks, around the eyes, even in the forehead.
Depending on the severity of swelling, you may experience constant pain, or it may pulse with your heartbeat.
The only thing about sinus headaches is that they aren’t usually sinus headaches: they’re much more likely to be migraine or tension headaches.
Migraine, Tension Headaches, and TMJ
Tension headaches occur when your muscles are overworked or constantly tensed. These muscles can hurt in themselves because of their exertion, or they can cause pain by putting pressure on nerves and other tissues that are nearby.
Migraines are not as well understood. The immediate pain sensations relate to a vascular response in the brain that puts pressure on brain tissue, but why this occurs is a little more mysterious. It’s often related to excess nerve stimulus from a few key nerves, including the trigeminal nerve, which can be a result of tension headaches.
TMJ, temporomandibular joint disorder, is first and foremost a jaw disorder, but when your jaw isn’t functioning properly, tension can build up in jaw muscles, which is then transmitted to other muscles that share work with these jaw muscles. This can lead to tension headaches.
TMJ can trigger migraine headaches either through tension headaches or through direct irritation of the trigeminal nerve.
Although migraine headaches may surge during allergy season, they can occur year round, and controlling them means first recognizing that you have them and then finding appropriate treatment. TMJ treatment can reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches.