Relieving Sinus Headaches
with Nasal Lavage
If your headaches are really coming from sinusitis, one of the best ways for relieving sinus headaches, is to clean out your sinuses with nasal lavage. How do you determine where the headache is coming from? Sinus headaches are characterized by the following symptoms:
- pain/pressure in the cheeks, bridge of the nose, and over your eyes
- increased symptoms with head movements
- sinus congestion
- nasal discharge
- fever/body aches
- facial swelling/redness
The first four symptoms listed above can be imitated by trigger points in certain head and neck muscles. To learn more about these, click here. If it seems that you do have nasal congestion and possible sinusitis, then nasal lavage (aka nasal irrigation) can be a great natural cure for sinus headache.
Procedure for Relieving Sinus Headaches with Nasal Lavage
The mechanism is fairly simple. You introduce salt water into the nasal cavities to wash out excess mucus. If you do an isotonic solution where the solution has the same amount of salt as the nasal tissues, it feels more comfortable, but only acts to mechanically dislodge the mucus. If you use more salt, it becomes a hypertonic solution, where there is more salt in the solution than in the nasal tissues. This is more uncomfortable but it will actually draw water out of the tissue, creating more space and allowing better drainage. Mix the following ingredients:
- 2 cups lukewarm water (distilled or clean tap water)
- Kosher, canning, or sea salt with no additives
- For isotonic solution: 1 teaspoon
- For hypertonic solution: 2-3 teaspoons
- 1/2 teaspoon of Baking Soda (optional for pH balance)
Using a Neti Pot — A Neti pot is a small ceramic vessel, that is specifically designed for nasal lavage. With the Neti pot, you hold your head, tilted to the side and let the solution flow into one nostril and out the other. Then you can reverse directions.
Using a squirt bottle or nasal bulb syringe — With this method, you can remain upright over the sink and squirt the solution in your nostrils directly toward the back of the head. Continue with one area until it is clear. Then try positioning your head tilted to one side and let the solution drain through the other nostril. I also tip my head back to let it get into the other sinuses and then gently blow it out.
If you are having trouble getting the solution to get into the sinuses because the tissues are so swollen, you can use a spray decongestant like Afrin to shrink the membranes enough to be able to clean out the sinuses. Then perform nasal lavage as outlined above.
Precautions for Relieving Sinus Headaches with Nasal Lavage
As with any medical self care, you should consult with your healthcare provider to make sure you do not have any contraindications for performing this procedure. Although it is fairly safe, there is a small risk of spreading infection. There is also a risk of sending fluid into your inner ear. To minimize these risks, make sure you use a clean water supply, blow your nose gently during and after the procedure, and do not perform if you have dark green mucus without the advice of your doctor.
For relieving sinus headaches with trigger point massage, click here.
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