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What Are the Causes of Intense Sinus Pain Without Congestion?

author image Emily DeSerio
Emily DeSerio has been a freelance writer since November 2009. DeSerio works in the mental health field as a clinical social worker. She began her higher level education at the University of South Florida (USF) with a B.A. in English and went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree at USF as well.
What Are the Causes of Intense Sinus Pain Without Congestion?
TMJ is a cause of intense sinus pain without congestion.

Many people are misdiagnosed for sinus headaches due to allergies or the common cold when in fact the sinus pain is caused by another issue, according to Jackson Sinus. When a person experiences intense sinus pain, it is usually caused by inflamed sinus cavities that place pressure throughout the head, resulting in intense pain. While irritated sinuses may be a cause of sinus pain, it is typically accompanied with congestion. The most common causes of intense sinus pain without congestion are a deviated septum, nasal polyps, sinusitis and temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, issues, according to Jackson Sinus.

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Deviated Septum

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, a deviated septum is a physical deformity that affects a person’s ability to breathe and properly discharge nasal mucus. A deviate septum is when then center wall of the nasal cavity is crooked. The condition is the result of natural abnormal development during the human growth process or from a facial injury. Depending on the severity of the deviated septum will have a direct result on the amount of pain a person may experience. A deviated septum can cause severe pain without the presence of congestion and is only remedied with sinus surgery.

Nasal Polyps

The Mayo Clinic states that nasal polyps are growths along the lining of the nasal cavity. They are non-cancerous but can range in size. When nasal polyps grow excessively they can create intense sinus pain without congestion. An enlarged nasal polyp can cause facial deformities such as a widening of the eyes and an enlarged nose. Nasal polyps are treated with nasal steroid sprays to shrink their size, but in extreme cases surgery may be required.


Not all sinus infections result in congestion, according to Jackson Sinus. A sinus infection occurs when bacteria or a virus enters the sinus cavity, causing it to become inflamed. The inflamed sinuses place excessive pressure around the head, causing severe pain in the eyes, ears and forehead. Treatment for sinusitis is determined by a doctor and may include the use of antibiotics.


TMJ is a join condition that affects the connection points of where the upper and lower jaw meets. TMJ can cause intense sinus pain as a result of the bones rubbing together or getting dislocated. TMJ is commonly caused by people who grind their teeth in their sleep or during the day. Surgery may be required to repair a damaged jaw.

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