Sinus Pressure and Nasal Congestion: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Your sinuses are four pairs of hollow, air-filled spaces in your skull that connect to your nasal passageways. The sinuses are thinly lined with mucus membranes (mucosa), and keep the inside of your nose nice and moist. Normally your sinuses are empty except for a thin layer of mucus. Sometimes a respiratory tract infection can affect your sinuses and cause the mucus membranes (mucosa) inside your sinus cavities and nasal passageways to become inflamed. Your sinuses start to produce more mucus that is extra sticky. 

This extra mucus (along with swelling) blocks the passageways and causes buildup. Mucus can’t get out like it normally can. This blockage leads to sinus pressure and pain. 

Sinus Congestion Signs & Symptoms 

  1. Headache and sinus pain: dull, throbbing pain located at the front of your face. The pain may get worse when you lean over or bend down, when you touch your face (especially your cheeks or forehead) and might also feel more severe in chilly, damp weather. If your sinus headache comes from a cold or flu, you’ll have other symptoms, too. Those might include general body aches, fever, coughing, chest congestion and excess mucus.
  2. Sinus drainage, sore throat and coughing: If you have a sinus pressure and nasal congestion, you might develop a sore throat and experience dry (nonproductive) coughing, or develop a wet productive chest cough. This is due to the mucus in the sinuses draining from the head into the throat, where it can cause additional irritation.
  3. Fever: If sinus pressure and nasal congestion are caused by an infection, a rise in temperature may soon join the mix of symptoms. A sinus infection can trigger some whole-body symptoms as your immune system fights to keep the infection at bay—which may cause fatigue or a fever. 

If your fever lasts more than three days, or your cough isn’t going away, please consult your doctor. 

Primary Causes of Nasal Congestion and Sinus Pressure 

The underlying cause of nasal congestion is anything that inflames or irritates your nasal tissue. When you’re exposed to irritating triggers, like bacteria or a cold or flu virus, your body responds by mounting an immune response and the delicate tissues lining your sinuses start to swell. This, in turn, puts sinus pressure on the underlying tissues in your face, causing that painful sinus pressure you know all-too-well. 

Other causes of nasal congestion, among others, are allergies and environmental triggers including tobacco smoke and dry air. 

Relieving Symptoms

There are things you can do to help relieve your sinus pressure before you reach for any medicine. Here are a few things you can try to relieve sinus pressure and nasal congestion: 

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer.
  • Take a long, hot shower; it may have the same effect as using a humidifier if one is not available.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Use a warm compress on your face; resting a warm towel over your sinuses may offer relief.
  • Irrigate your sinuses: Using a neti pot or syringe with salt water may help flush debris from your sinuses to relieve sinus infection symptoms.
  • Sleep with your head elevated.

If these steps don’t work, the next approach is over-the-counter medicine. When trying to relieve sinus pressure and nasal congestion, look for a decongestant. A decongestant will shrink the mucus membranes that have swollen in your sinuses. This will help the trapped mucus drain out—meaning you’ll breathe easier and feel more comfortable. 

Nasal sprays, such as Mucinex® Sinus-Max® Full Force® Nasal Spray, can help ease congestion and provide relief. Mucinex® nasal sprays contain oxymetazoline. It’s what is known as a “topical decongestant” and is only found in nasal sprays. That means it needs to be applied to the affected areas in the nose rather than taken as a pill or liquid. This nasal spray starts to work within three minutes of using, and results last up to 12 hours. Breathe easy. 

For relief from sinus congestion accompanied by pain, cough, and chest congestion, turn to Maximum Strength* Mucinex® Sinus-Max® Severe Congestion Relief Caplets—or another member of the Mucinex® Sinus-Max® family of products. They combine four maximum-strength medications to help relieve your headache and sinus congestion symptoms. This powerful formula of decongestant, pain reliever, cough suppression, and expectorant works to loosen mucus, reduce sinus swelling, and promote drainage. 

When to See the Doctor

Stop use and ask a doctor if nervousness, dizziness or sleeplessness occurs; if pain, nasal congestion, or cough gets worse or lasts more than 7 days; if fever gets worse or lasts more than 3 days; if redness or swelling is present, new symptoms occur, cough comes back, or occurs with rash or headache that lasts. These could be signs of a serious health condition.