The connection between our sinuses and headaches is well established, but what about the relationship between neck pain and our sinuses? Is there a connection?
Sinusitis is very common in the spring when pollen counts are high and times when the cold and flu are rampant. It usually manifests with a clear runny nose and pain over the affected sinuses and other “histamine” related symptoms (watery eyes, sneezing, etc.).
The Mayo Clinic states at least two of four primary symptoms of chronic sinusitis (CS) need to be present to confirm a CS diagnosis: 1) thick, discolored nasal discharge or drainage down the back of the throat (post-nasal drip); 2) nasal obstruction due to congestion that interferes with nasal breathing; 3) pain, tenderness, and swelling in the eyes, face, nose, forehead; 4) a reduced sense of taste and smell in adults and a cough in children.
Other CS symptoms can include: 1) ear pain; 2) jaw or teeth pain; 3) cough—often worse at night; 4) sore throat; 5) bad breath (halitosis); 6) fatigue; 7) irritability; 8) nausea; and 9) neck pain. Acute sinusitis has similar signs and symptoms when compared with CS, but they are short-lived. Symptoms that warrant a primary care consideration include: 1) high fever; 2) severe headache; 3) mental confusion; 4) visual changes—double vision, blurriness, etc.; and 5) profound neck pain and stiffness.
Causation of CS include: 1) Nasal polyps; 2) deviated septum; or 3) other medical conditions (cystic fibrosis complications, gastroesophageal reflux or HIV and other autoimmune system-related diseases) that can block the nasal passage.
Risk factors for CS include: 1) nasal passage conditions (polyps, deviated septum); 2) asthma; 3) aspirin sensitivity (due to respiratory problems); 4) immune system disorder (HIV/AIDS or cystic fibrosis); 5) hay fever/allergies; 6) pollutant exposure (air pollution, cigarette smoke).
Complications of CS: 1) meningitis; 2) infection migration such as to the bones (osteomyelitis) or to the skin (cellulitis); 3) sense of smell loss (partial or complete “anosmia”); 4) vision problems (including blindness).
Many are not aware that neck pain and stiffness and jaw or teeth pain are symptoms of CS. Conditions like this are a reminder that it’s important for both the doctor and patient to be aware of ALL the symptoms present, even if they seem like they aren’t connected. While doctors of chiropractic are trained to look for non-mechanical causes for neck pain when a patient seeks care, it makes it easier if the patient is forthcoming with all their symptoms, even the ones that don’t seem relevant.
The good news is that doctors of chiropractic are trained to manage CS and can offer patients advice on lifestyle changes that may reduce the risk of the infection recurring. Furthermore, chiropractors often work with allied healthcare professionals when antibiotics or other measures are needed.