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Adrienne Dellwo

Sinus Problems in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By March 18, 2010

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Sinus problems are almost as common pain and exhaustion in those of us with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and this is a bad time of year for them. We're in the last dregs of the cold and flu season, allergy season is getting underway, and lots of triggers are in the air for non-allergy rhinitis.

Why do we have so many sinus problems? Several reasons:

  • We're more prone to allergies & sensitivities (because of central sensitization).
  • Our immune systems can be slow to conquer illnesses, which leaves us congested for a long time.
  • Many researchers believe our secretions, including mucus, are usually thick. (I believe it -- I often feel like there's glue in my sinuses.)

It can take more than a decongestant to clear us up, and if you're like me you can't even tolerate decongestants. I'm especially prone to sinus infection and bronchitis, so I'm doing everything I can to clear things out before I get sicker. Here's what I've been using:

I'm new to the neti pot, but so far I'm really happy with the results. After my first use one of my ears popped, so I can almost hear and almost breathe through my nose -- very exciting developments.

Do you have a lot of sinus problems? How bad are they? What helps you? Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo ballyscanlon/Getty Images

March 18, 2010 at 7:41 am
(1) Patty Rowe says:

I’m almost constantly congested in my sinuses and I have chronic bronchitis it seems. I’m using Zyrtek and Astepro and that keeps it pretty well under control. Thanks for the article A.

March 18, 2010 at 8:38 am
(2) Michael M. says:

I have been suffering from CFS for 3 years now and was diagnosed a little more than a year ago. Sinus problems? ALWAYS! I do use the Neti Pot and that helps for temporary relief; but, currently I am suffering from what I believe to be bronchitis. I heard that sinus surgery actually helps relieve some of the fatigue associated with CFS; but, as someone who uses my voice in what I do for a living that just isn’t an option for me, as sinus surgery oftentimes leaves the voice sounding nasaly. Things that help: Neti Pot, plenty of water, exercises moderately and regularly, elevate the head of your bed at night. Avoid: Milk and other dairy products as these can further congest you and eating within a couple hours of bed time.

March 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm
(3) Shirley Poncini says:

I was diagnosed with CFS in 1992.For almost 10 years I lived at the ENT office. Ear infections and sinus infections. Z-packs were a constant perscription . What helped me was
CranioSacral Therapy. My doctor sent me to a PT for a lower back problem. It didn’t help the back, but I have not had another sinus since. That was in 2004. I’m not kidding!

March 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm
(4) Denise S says:

I was just recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia after a two year search for the cause of my hip pain and tenderness. Now I see how very many of the other symptoms I also have. I have had sinus and ear infections repeatedly but this year has been better. I use a neti pot and Mucinex. I have also been healthier since I started taking a probiotic regularly. My doctor recommended Align but I have been using the Walgreens brand which seems to do well in both protecting me from upper respiratoty issues as well as irritable bowel problems. I also get occasional facials. They use facial massage and a warm mist during the treatment which is wonderful for sinus issues.

March 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm
(5) Sherry says:

The supplement bromelain works really well for me. A humidifier is a must, especially during the cooler months when central heating causes the air to dry out. When I start to get an infection, I take goldenseal and echinacea and drink fresh ginger tea, which helps immensely. I do drink a lot of milk, but it’s heated (with cocoa & raw sugar) and it’s organic and has supplemental DHA, and it does not aggravate my symptoms.

March 18, 2010 at 10:37 pm
(6) Brett Zamir says:

When I first got chronic fatigue after bouts of bronchitis and somehow getting mono at the time exacerbated by enormous stress at a first year teaching experience in the inner city of Chicago, I had thought that the lingering sinus problem may have been causing my fatigue. I later got a lymphoma (now fully treated) as well, so it seems likely not to be merely sinus-related fatigue, but the two did (and still do) very much coincide for me. As with Shirley, I also tried a variety of ENT solutions, none of which worked or made things worse (and I think Zicam did zap my sense of smell — btw, see http://www.healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory.aspx?docID=628927 for a possible restoration of smell, though many of us might not want it if it can cause sleep problems). I’m intrigued by the CranioSacral therapy, esp. since I _have_ noticed sinus relief from massage (even of seemingly unrelated areas like the neck), but wish there were more studies (Pubmed didn’t turn up anything on both CranioSacral and sinus).

March 19, 2010 at 2:09 am
(7) Guest says:

I’ve had Fibromyalgia for many years and also sinus infections and sinus problems. I have use all of the above treatments too.
Some of the FMS sites have suggested that chronic sinus problems are due to fungus infections and suggested treatments for those. My doctors, including ENT and respiratory doctors have not heard of these.
Has anybody else?

March 19, 2010 at 4:54 am
(8) Kristin Warry says:

I use Actifed, and if necessary Vicks sinex – their new cool version is fab.

For longer term issues, I had basically had swollen sinuses for 20 years, but now I hardly ever sniff thanks to a great acupuncturist! – I went to see her for neuropathy in desperation, and never once expected my sinuses to improve.

March 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm
(9) Mummylady says:

I use Zyrtec for the post-nasal drip and Flonase for the rest of it. Also have air purifiers and just installed a salt crystal lamp in the bedroom (seems to help) I have problems with guifenisen (Mucinex, and also in a LOT of cough medicines) but that is one of the alternative treatments (I believe it was Dr. Lowe who first did it) for fibromyalgia, and my doctor has used it successfully with two of his patients to alleviate a lot of their pain symptoms.

Also if I am really congested, plain old Vicks swabbed inside my nose helps me make it through the night, and any sort of cough drops with eucalyptyus seems to help.

For regular head colds I use the store brand of Zicam as well as non-drowsy cold pills and it seems to reduce the severity and longevity of the thing.

I had sinus surgery which was unavoidable and wound up with some nerve damage which never did heal, correctly, I had to have speech therapy, so I suggest that should be a last resort!

March 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm
(10) Bruce Shapiro says:

Ocean makes a two pack of aerosol much more effective in squeeze bottles and if you buy at Cosco, it’s very cheap, about nine bucks for two large cans plus a free bottle of fluid in a small squeeze bottle. By keeping my sinuses irrigated this way I rarely have to resort to chemical nose sprays

March 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm
(11) KCP says:

I have been using guaifenisen for several years. Mucinex or any generics that are colored blue do not seem to work for me. White colored generics are fine.

Awhile back I belonged to a fibro support group using ‘guai’ as a treatment for fibro several members found that the blue coloring was not working for them. There were also some types that had a later release that also were not as well tolerated by some. I have not had a serious sinus infection since I started using the guai.

I also believe that the guai helps relieve some of the strange swelling I would suffer from my fibro.

I too use flonase and saline sprays and the neti pot when I encounter some stuffiness. These are also times when I too would use some Vicks by my nostrils at night.

March 19, 2010 at 6:53 pm
(12) Carol says:

I too use the Neti pot irrigation twice a day, Guaifenesin 600 mgs long acting (white tablets) twice a day (for FM), and Nasonex Rx two sprays each nostril twice a day (for dizziness). I had stopped the Guaifensin a while back for a few days, and developed a very severe sinus headache which was similar to my headaches pre starting the guaifenesin protocol three years ago. My sinus problems are under good control with all of the above.

March 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm
(13) Tammie says:

I used to have really bad sinus problems, even before getting CFS and FM, becasue I have a deviated septum and lots of allergies. Mucus would get trapped in there and I would be so sick. Doctors had me try so many things and nothing really worked. I was getting told that I would have to have surgery.

Then my mom suggested taking a lot of Vitamin C. At that point, I was not into supplements and very skeptical, but I decided it was worth a shot (I was not thrilled with the idea of surgery). I started taking Vit C and gradually increasing the dosage, and it worked!

Since then (15 yrs ago), I have tried several times to cut back on the Vit C and without fail, I got a sinus infection every time. So, I continue to take the Vit C and I stay sinus infection free. I do have to take a ton, though. Anything less than 12 grams a day and I start to have problems again.

Vit C can cause stomach upset in larger amounts if your body is not used to it, so if anyone wants to try it, I would suggest starting with a low does, and slowly increasing the amt.

March 19, 2010 at 11:40 pm
(14) Helen says:

I have had sinus problems for about 20 years now. I developed them when I moved out west. I gets worse every year. This year I developed asthma from all of my allergies. So when they get real bad I use my inhaler. I get very bad sinus headaches, some are migraines others are cluster headaches. I used to take NASAD’s until it made my liver enzymes go crazy! So now I take asprin. I usually have a coffee with it and that helps too. I CAN’T STAND THE HEADACHES I GET BEHIND OR NEAR MY EYES, THESE ARE SO PAINFULL I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. Any suggestions? I have been very , very tired lately but I’m not sure what is causing it. It could be CFS/FBS, or allergies. But I have felt this way for months now and I do not know how to get better. I just fall asleep because I’m extreamly tired. I have so much to do but none of it is getting done. Fortunately i have a very understanding husband who helps me. I wish you all Good Health and Peace.

From Adrienne: I agree with Christina — get tested for allergies! Sometimes it’s hard to tell the symptoms from a cold or respiratory infection. Good luck to you! ~Adrienne

March 20, 2010 at 1:15 am
(15) elana s. says:

i’ve had the same sinus infection since winter 96. I am allergic to my apt. perhaps because prior tenant owned pets. my next door neighbor smokes 4 packs a day, and the smoke comes into my apt. management tried to do some sealing but i was fruitless. so, i just basically can’t breathe. sometimes i just have to go outside when it’s 20 degrees because i can’t breathe indoors. and yes, i have asthma too

March 20, 2010 at 3:44 am
(16) Christina says:

Helen have you been tested for allergies? The northwest is famous for them! I had very good success with allergy injections/ desensitization for 5 years – went from 6 infections a year to 2. I dont have to tell any of you how deep the exhaustion is from those sinus infections, especially on top of the FM fatigue. I use steam, sinus irrigation (saline), vicks up my nose, hot packs, mucinex, nasarel spray, claritin, and SUNGLASSES! My doctor told me about vitamin C several years ago, too. good luck

March 20, 2010 at 4:09 am
(17) sherri says:

been living with fibro ans myof pain 19 years always at doc with ear sinius then in 2003 doc said lets try clartion guess what it works to keep the fluid build up out 1 a day for 7 years stil working

March 21, 2010 at 9:37 am
(18) Patsy says:

I’m new to nasal irrigation also. My older daughter, who has had lots of sinus infections, uses a Neti pot. It seemed complicated to me, so I ordered another kind of irrigater which was designed by an ENT. I really like it. It enables me to breathe easily after use in a way that I’ve never been able to using antihistamine/ decongestant meds, humidifying my air, using saline spray, drinking lots of water.

March 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm
(19) carol says:

I have a wonderful massage therapist that uses a sinus drainage technique. Works. I take zyrtec every day and a decongestant or Mucinex as needed.

March 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm
(20) KiwiRob says:

I’ve had M.E.since 1975, & need high-dose asthma & hayfever medications every day. BUT….after many years of chronic bronchitis, I found something which works for that! Elecampane drops – a few taken in a little water at the first hint of a wheeze – were so effective that I no longer get bronchitis at all. After several years of practically living at the Dr’s &/or the Hospital, even through summers, this is truly something to be grateful for.

March 21, 2010 at 10:35 pm
(21) RLM says:

I used to have terrible sinus problems. They went away completely when I started seeing a chiropractor when I was pregnant. Don’t know whether it was the pregnancy or the work done on my back, but it’s been four years now with no trouble at all.

March 22, 2010 at 11:57 am
(22) Shoshana says:

i have reflux which can lead to bronchitis and of course a constant post nasal drip and sinusitis. soooooo i sleep sitting up. i really do. You get used to it and it entails many pillows which i need to support all the complaining limbs of my body. it works very well. i also use a saline solution often to clean out my nose which really helps.

April 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm
(23) CHRIS D says:

i use a product XLEAR (pronounced clear, using the greek letter X {chi}). been using it for several years. always had clogged nasal passages. this helps me breathe normal, even with a cold or infection. i get it from vitamin shoppe, about $10. made with xylitol, which prevents mucus from adhering to nasal and sinus membranes.

April 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm
(24) steve says:

I have found the absolute best stuff for sinus infections. I used to use a saline (salt) solution in my neti pot. It was good for kind-of opening things up. But then my Sister gave me this stuff that she found that is some kind of anti-microbial thing. I used it when I had a sinus infection last week (after my cold of course) and WOW. I can’t say that I’ve ever had my sinuses as clear as they are now. It really knocked out that sinus infection like nobodies business. The stuff is called Super Neti Juice and I would rate it at 5 stars *****. Good stuff. I’m not sure about the web address cause the one on the bottle is different than the one that Sis told me but the one that is in her email is http://www.mynaturesrite.com/index_files/super-neti-juice-pot-salt.php
This is worth a try for sure.

August 23, 2010 at 3:38 am
(25) Lorraine says:

Have been suffering from fibromyalgia now acute sinus infections they now sell a electronic form of potty net, irrigattes lots stronger. Does anyone know what kind of
natural remedies I could take than you

February 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm
(26) michael says:

terrible at the miment, aching teeth, facial and skull aches, canker sores, dryness etc, plenty of water and allergy tablets and sleep and paracetamol

March 16, 2012 at 2:52 am
(27) Ethan says:

I’m nearly twenty and I have had sinus issues and allergies all throughout my life. I’ve tried allergy medications but they had little effect. But this year I’ve found out about the neti pot and it has helped me breath easier since day one. I use it twice or even three times a day,depending on the weather. But I’ve noticed I cough up little or no mucus in the morning from it draining in my throat while I’m sleeping. it helps with sinus infections and also bronchitis(well it did mine) . Wish the best of luck and God bless .

April 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm
(28) Deb B. says:

The neti pot is the best friend for sinus and allergy issues. I’ve been told it’s fine to use it up to four times a day if needed. Also, I’m so done wtih all the antibiotics and allergy pills and sprays! I’ve taken them for years. Now I go natural – - probiotics, oil of oregano capsules, olive leaf extract capsules, garlic capsules, and mushroom complex are key to helping the immune system, fighting infections, and balancing the flora. You may not need all of them. Experiment with one or two first. Also, regular B-12 can be helpful for allergies. If you can learn to muscle test (kinetic test) for what supplements are helpful on which days and how many, this is extremely helpful. You can research this topic on the internet. You’ll also then be able to test if you’re sensitive to dairy or other foods. It’s nice to connect with all of you and read your comments. Hang in there. These things sometimes go in cycles and give you a break now and then. God bless.

June 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm
(29) Boston Blackie says:

I find that the only 2 things that work to stop sinus headaches are 150 MG tab of Oxycontin followed by a double Cranberry Vodka chaser.
I know, my treatment will be frowned upon by most people; however if it works, screw it. Sure, I’m totally trashed and I talk to myself in the mirror during treatment, but the sinus crap vanishes. ;)

July 14, 2012 at 12:52 am
(30) lynn weiss says:

In 1984 I became extremely ill with chicken pox, It followed with chronic bronchitis. which I caught from my three year old Daughter. I was ill for 8 weeks. Took several anti-B’s, my dry cough continued for months. I had just returned from Lake Tahoe (Incline Village). Fast Forward….in 1994 I was driving down from the 5000ft San Bernardino Mountain area…I As I entered the freeway I developed a severe headache and my ears were closed. What NOW is interesting is I have never had as much as head cold, ….with some help from massage, steam, salt scrubs, HBOT, NLP, etc. I always would wonder why I never have a regular type cold, or flu. The worst part is the blocked ears, which become even worse when air pressure changes. NO MUCUS NO WAX,…..Pain..head & body, In 2008 I had a MVA brain injury. So, now I have FM/CFS/ME. It is like my body is internalizing, not eradicating out, but holding inside, no repair, like my system had a breakdown. . I went to Dr. John Chia. who is researching the gut theory, entrovirus. I had all tests including the block gut tissue…..I have eight virus….the highest is Hvv-6 & Coxsakie #3 (Brain. Heart, Spleen) After being cut for biopsy I starting swelling (not edema) It was as if I had theses virus’s racing from one organ to another. I became bedridden for over one year. . For myself and I am sure many others, our immune symptom is BROKEN. I can feel the sickness in the entire body, all areas…..and there has been no way out!!!!! Please listen if you have Fibromyalgia….STOP and rest, research and treat. Do not just cover it up and push on. Get tests, Do treatments one at a time to see what works…..See a Doctor that is knowledgeable. Your chances for recovery are there….for now..it is all about YOU .HUG’s

September 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm
(31) Aimsterdame says:

I have had chronic sinusitis and have just found out I have fibermy.. as well. I have seen many ENTs and the one from Mayo rx a sinse steriod compound called BUDESONIDE – you can get it at an Apothecary shop. It really helps for sinus infections.

October 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm
(32) Rose says:

I keep hearing that our sinus issues have to do with fungal/candida overgrowth in our sinuses and throughout our bodies. They say to cut out sweets, and carbohydrates that turn into sugars. I also have heard that you need to do a 3 month cleanse and that should rid you of the problem. I personally haven’t done this and wonder what everyone else thinks about it?

June 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm
(33) Susan says:

Does anyone get chronic head aches? My pain runs along above my eyebrows and to just above my temples. It lays me up for days and is worse in the summer. I’ve been laying low for a few days and nothing seems to help.
P.S. I have fibromyalgia and Sjogren’s.

August 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm
(34) Tina says:

I have always had severe sinus problems and they could never figure out the cause and no pills ever worked on them. Now they are annoying as all get out..they are either constantly clogged or constantly running and neither one is acceptable when you are on oxygen 24/7. i am on Singular and Claritin for my sinus;s, and and the albuterol nebulizer, advair diskus, spiriva, and the albuterol inhalers for my asthma and copd, and flonase as well. i also take mucinex 6 tablets a day and i still have problems getting the mucus out of my lungs and throat, usually every morning i literally almost choke on the mucus and cough and gag for about a half hour till i get it up and all i get up if just a tiny bit, it always hits me at night.. i have used a neti pot before and it was wonderful, i haven”t used it in a while but i will get back to using it.. they are a wonderful thing.. i didnt realize sinus problems were connected with fibro.explains alot from the pas..

August 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm
(35) Linda Macapayag says:

omg – I have horrible, chronic sinus problems for 30+ years. I never knew it may have anything to do with the fibromyalgia that I was only officially diagnosed with 2 years ago. I use known nasal wash with distilled water, sea salt & baking soda once or twice a day. It does help, but also prone to sinus infections. Nasal & sinus passages always swollen and mucus always thick and sticky, just like you said.

February 26, 2014 at 9:20 am
(36) Malley. says:

I have had f.m.s. For years. But After. A few years I started having
Asthma. Or bronchitis. Like symptoms . But I notice that when I. Sweat
Or. Get. Out side in the cold or. Inside. When AC. Is on , and when walking. Even 10. Mints. In the room. Later. I think because of. Sweating
I get. Asthma. Symptoms . I never. Had. Problem. With my longs before
Fibromyalgia . I also. Have post nasal. Drip. That. Accumulates. In my throat . Also when I laugh. I. Get asthmatic. And. Even. Without having. Asthma symptoms. When I. Am talking. Very. Often. I. Lose
My voice. And. I can’t get the word. Out.
Does. Any one. Has these. Symptoms . Please. Let me know.
Whis. Every one. The best.

March 2, 2014 at 12:34 am
(37) Cheryl says:

The doctors tell me that migraine meds like Imitrex won’t work on sinus headaches; but from experience they will. Though this is not an answer for everyday use though it will get you by until you can get treatment for infection underway. Any kind of ease for that pain is good for me….I hate those headaches…..kkc

April 5, 2014 at 10:34 pm
(38) Kalli says:

I have had chronic sinusitis ever since I can remember, I’m 28 now.
I have allergies too (seasonal). I have had many upper respiratory infections, one bout with pneumonia (age 2), one bout with Mono than led into Epstien Barr. I have had fibro and myofasical syndrome for 2 years now. The fatigue and pain is the clincher. I get massages bi-weekly. I just have no energy and if I do, my body is like foreign to it.

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