Sinus Pain and Stress

Are sinus pain and stress related in some way? When a person has a sinus infection, they're suffering from an inflammation or swelling of the tissues lining their sinus cavities. 

Normally, your sinuses are filled with air, but sometimes they fill with fluid and become blocked.  When this happens, it can be painful and might cause a sinus infection. 

Several circumstances can cause inflamed, blocked sinuses, including, for example, a simple cold, rhinitis caused by allergies, or nasal polyps.

You can even develop sinusitis as a result of being depressed, overly tired or feeling mentally stressed or anxious.

So yes, sinus pain and stress seem to be related - at least for some people.

The sinus pain or headaches people sometimes feel when they're stressed, depressed or physically drained are very real, even though they're not being caused by a cold or some other physical illness.


You might be wondering how this can happen.  Isn't the sinus pain these stressed people are feeling "all in their heads?"  After all, they're not sick, at least not in any way we can see. 

But any illness can be made worse by depression or mental stress.  The white blood cells circulating throughout your system are one of your body's main defenses against sickness and disease, but those white blood cells become less effective when you're depressed because of certain chemical changes in your body. 

An entire field of science - called psychoneurobiology - is exploring the ways our emotions can impact our physical well-being.  This exciting field of study is helping us learn how stress, anxiety and our emotions all affect the human immune system, endocrine system (how our hormones are produced) and neurological functions to cause us to become physically ill.

For example, a 1989 research study showed that breast cancer patients who regularly attended support group meetings had a survival rate that was double that of patients who didn't attend any meetings. 

More recent research may explain the difference in those survival rates:  we have learned that people who attend support group meetings and receive training in stress reduction have a different body chemistry than people who do not.  And apparently this difference in chemical makeup is highly significant. 

Interactions of Sinus Pain and Stress

Remember, your mental state and emotions - including feelings of depression or stress- can affect your body in three crucial areas - your immune system, your endocrine system and your neurological functioning. 

You need to keep in mind that stress is the result of your individual interpretation of a given set of circumstances or particular situation, not the situation itself. 

For example, hearing the phone ring in the middle of the night doesn't make you sick, but your reaction to it - the thought of that phone call possibly being the bearer of bad news - could.

Sinus pain and stress are related. When your sinuses are acting up and you're having sinus pain or headaches, the first thing you should do is find out what's going on in your body. 

Go to your health care professional and have some tests run.  Find out whether you're allergic to something - for example, an allergy to dust, mold, perfumes or dust mites might be responsible for your sinus pain.  Do you have a nasal physical anomaly, such as polyps?  Or maybe you simply blow your nose too hard and forcibly disrupt the membranes lining your sinuses.

It's also fairly common for women to feel sinus pain around the same time they're going through PMS.  Typically felt as sinus headaches, this type of sinusitis is caused by hormone-induced water retention.  If you experience this type of sinusitis, you can try to reduce the amount of water you retain by reducing your salt intake about ten days before your menstrual period is due.

Conclusions on Sinus pain and Stress

If your sinus pain is stress-related, you might be able to reduce your stress levels - and your likelihood of experiencing stress-induced sinusitis - by embarking on a regular exercise program. 

You can also try a relaxation program that teaches you the proper breathing techniques, guided imagery and biofeedback techniques that can help reduce your stress and anxiety.

Research has shown that stress does indeed play a role in our physical health.  Various experts in the field theorize that constant emotional stress can cause a breakdown in the immune system.  The infections that result (such as a cold, for example) in turn lead to an inflammation of the sinus membranes and sinus pain. 

Because it can impact our health in so many ways, it's important to realize that stress should be addressed and resolved rather than ignored.  Reduce your stress and you just might reduce your painful sinus symptoms.

More on treatments for sinus infections.

From Sinus Pain and Stress to the main page about Stress Symptoms

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