Growing up I remember watching the popular game show, What’s My Line? The program began by announcing that one of the four panelists had an interesting career, such as an astronaut. The other three panelists were “posers” (imposters). The contestant’s job was to question the bunch, and when the allotted time was up, they had to guess as to which one of the panelists was telling the truth. After the contestant had made their best guess, the show’s host would then follow up by saying the now infamous line: “Would the real (fill in the blank) please stand up?!?”
I wish we could play this same game when diagnosing head pain. There are so many possible causes of headache. And with only so much “real estate” in the region of the head, pain has limited locations to travel to. The forehead, the bridge of the nose and behind the eyes seems to be a popular destination. Pain which lands itself here is usually labeled sinus headache—though more times than not, I find—in error.
So many patients come to me to be treated for their neck pain and when I question them about experiencing headaches, they say “Yes, I do, but they are sinus headaches.” They’ve come to this conclusion because their pain typically subsides after taking sinus medication.
Imagine their surprise when I begin working on their upper necks and their “sinus headache” begins to fade! After subsequent treatments, their “sinuses” no longer bother them—despite seasonal or environmental allergens. The reason is because they have been misdiagnosed, either by themselves or by someone who didn’t know to look elsewhere for the culprit.
In my book, Overcoming Headaches and Migraines, I discuss the way to correctly diagnose a whole host of head pain initiators. TRUE sinus headaches are characteristically accompanied by nasal drainage and/or congestion, and infections may present with a low fever. So if your ENT doctor has given you a clean bill of sinus health, try a manual physical therapy approach—your neck dysfunction may be “posing” as a sinus headache.