A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is a common condition, often causing a range of uncomfortable symptoms. While nasal congestion, nasal drainage, headaches, and facial pressure are frequently associated with sinusitis, some people also experience neck pain and stiffness (also called cervicalgia). Understanding the connection between sinus infections and neck discomfort can help you manage symptoms and seek the appropriate treatment.
What is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses, which are air-filled cavities located in the skull around the nose. This inflammation can be caused by infections (viral, bacterial, or fungal), allergies, nasal polyps, or any condition that obstructs the drainage of the sinuses. Chronic sinusitis refers to inflammation that lasts more than 12 weeks despite treatment efforts.
Common Symptoms of Sinusitis
The typical symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Nasal congestion or obstruction
- Thick nasal discharge (yellow or green in color)
- Postnasal drip
- Reduced sense of smell
- Facial pain or pressure
Can Sinusitis Cause Neck Pain and Stiffness?
While neck pain and stiffness are not classic symptoms of a sinus infection, they can occasionally accompany this condition. Here's how:
Referred pain is discomfort that is perceived in a location other than its actual source. The nerves in the sinuses and those in the neck might share common neurological pathways, which can sometimes cause the pain sensation from a sinus infection to be felt in the neck.
Sinus infections can lead to headaches and facial pain, which might result in muscle tension around the head and neck region. This tension can then lead to stiffness and pain in the neck.
Lymph Node Swelling
Lymph nodes, which are part of the body's immune system, can become swollen when fighting off an infection like sinusitis. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck can be painful and may contribute to the feeling of neck stiffness.
Chronic discomfort from sinusitis might lead to changes in posture as individuals subconsciously try to alleviate their sinus pressure or headaches. These changes can strain the neck muscles, leading to discomfort and stiffness.
Although a rare complication of sinusitis, fever and stiff neck can be worrisome signs that a sinus infection has spread to the central nervous system, causing meningitis (inflammation of the meninges). This life-threatening condition is a medical emergency, and you should go directly to an emergency facility for prompt evaluation.
Managing Neck Pain and Stiffness from Sinusitis
Managing neck pain and stiffness is not always straightforward. People often get relief at home with warm compresses, massage, and stretching exercises to help treat muscle tension. These symptoms are not always associated with a sinus infection, however, so a careful evaluation from a neck pain and sinusitis specialist may be needed. If you suspect your neck pain is related to a sinus infection, Exhale Sinus, TMJ, Headache & Sleep has otolaryngology specialists with the experience to ensure an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. We provide state-of-the-art, minimally invasive treatment for chronic sinusitis like balloon sinuplasty, and treat you with the compassionate care you deserve.
See a Chicago Neck Pain Specialist Today
While not a primary symptom of sinusitis, neck pain, and stiffness can sometimes occur with a sinus infection. It's important to recognize that these symptoms can be related to several causes and should be evaluated by an experienced sinus doctor who listens to you and can get you the appropriate treatment. Contact us to schedule an appointment!