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What are the Most Common Causes of Sinus and Neck Pain?

By C. Stoliecki
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are several possible reasons why sinus and neck pain occur simultaneously. A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, occurs when the sinuses become inflamed and is the most common cause of this type of pain. Neck and sinus pain are closely related to sinusitis of the sphenoid sinuses, which, because of their location, can cause pain in the neck. A person might also experience sinus and neck pain simultaneously, but for unrelated reasons. It is possible for an individual to suffer from one cause of sinus pain, while at the same time, suffer from one of the most common causes of neck pain such as muscle strain or arthritis.

Sinusitis is characterized by the swelling of the sinuses, which are a series of cavities near the nasal passage. This condition can be caused by the presence of bacteria, viruses, or an allergen. There are four pairs of sinuses in the human body, which are known as the maxillary, the frontal, the enthmoid and the sphenoid sinuses. When they become inflamed during a bout of sinusitis, they are prevented from draining appropriately. Unable to drain, thick mucus begins to gather creating pressure and ultimately pain in the affected sinus cavity.

While sinus pain accompanies all types of sinus infections, neck pain does not typically occur during all types of sinusitis. Generally, neck pain is associated with inflammation in the sphenoid sinuses. These sinuses are located towards the back of the head and when they become inflamed, the pressure that results can often cause pain as far down as the neck. Sinusitis in the sphenoid sinuses is therefore the most common cause of concurrent sinus and neck pain.

There are four main types of sinusitis. These are distinguished by the length of time that symptoms continue. Chronic sinusitis lasts for longer than eight weeks. Acute sinusitis is characterized as lasting less than four weeks and subacute sinusitis lasts anywhere from four to eight weeks. Finally, recurrent acute sinusitis characterizes three or more recurring bouts of acute sinusitis per year.

Sinus and neck pain can also be caused by unrelated conditions. For instance, a patient may suffer from sinusitis of the frontal sinuses, which is unlikely to cause concurrent neck pain. At the same time, however, they may also suffer from muscle strain in the neck that was caused by sitting at a computer for long hours. Muscle strain could cause the patient to experience neck pain while the frontal sinusitis causes them to experience sinus pain.

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Discussion Comments

By burcinc — On May 07, 2013

I have these symptoms too but I know they're not related. I get severe migraines when I have a sinus infection. I have trouble sleeping because of the migraines and will usually fall asleep close to morning in an odd position in front of the TV. That's where my neck soreness and pain comes from.

By fBoyle — On May 06, 2013

@literally45-- I'm not a doctor so I'm not sure. You need to see your doctor because if you do have an infection, it has to be treated with antibiotics.

I have, in the past however, had a simultaneous ear and sinus infection and it was so painful that the pain would radiate down my neck. I actually thought that I strained my neck but the pain disappeared when my infections were treated.

I also know that our throat, ear, nose and sinuses are all connected. So it's possible for an infection in one of these to spread to the others. In that case, you might experience symptoms like sore throat, ear, sinus, and neck pain and headaches. You need to see your doctor for a diagnosis though.

By literally45 — On May 06, 2013

Will a sphenoid sinus infection cause sinus, neck and throat pain? I'm experiencing all of these right now.

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