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Cardio Exercises & Sinus Pressure

Cardio Exercises & Sinus Pressure
A woman riding a stationary bike at the gym. Photo Credit: Ralf Cornesse/Hemera/Getty Images

Whether to exercise strenuously when dealing with sinus pressure depends on the nature of the pain. If you already have sinus pain before a workout, cardio can actually relieve it. Vigorous exercise might open nasal passages, which in turns relieves sinus pressure. But if sinus pain begins during a cardio session, determining the underlying cause will help you decide how to deal with these exercise headaches.

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If sinus pressure occurs during a cardio workout, you may have either a burgeoning sinus infection or allergic rhinitis. Sinus infections often follow a cold, because the virus leaves your body less able to fight off bacteria, notes the American Academy of Otolaryngology. In the case of sinusitis, sinus pressure likely will remain after a workout and be accompanied by thick nasal discharge. Rhinitis is an allergic reaction to an environmental factor, such as outdoor pollen or indoor dust and mold. These allergies provoke your body to produce protective histamines, which can cause sinus congestion and discharge. If you perform cardio in an area that triggers these allergies, your symptoms might recede when you complete your workout.


If the underlying cause is hay fever or another kind of allergic response, there are ways to release your sinus pressure. Massage your forehead and cheeks to stimulate mucus release to provide release from the pressure. Try an over-the-counter saline nasal spray to cleanse your nose and remove thick mucus. Your sinuses get irritated and inflamed when they are dry -- that worsens the pressure. Drink plenty of fluids to keep your body and nasal passages hydrated. If you have a sinus infection, a course of antibiotics can help clear it up and enable you to work out without pain.


If you suspect allergic reactions are causing your cardio sinus pressure, consider changing the workout venue. During hay fever season, performing cardio indoors might help prevent sinus flare-ups. Some people find that traffic fumes or chemicals trigger sinus pressure. In those cases, exercising outdoors is still possible, as long as it is done away from traffic fumes or industrial areas. Alternatively, dust or indoor allergens that lead to sinus pressure can be alleviated by running, walking or swimming outside rather than in a gym or home environment.


In some cases, “powering through” sinus pain is not recommended. Rest rather than working out if a sinus infection carries other symptoms, including fever or chest congestion. Attempting cardio when you have more than a mild cold can open the door to more serious illness.

Other Culprits

Talk to your doctor before self-diagnosing your cardio headaches as sinus pressure. Some exercise headaches are believed to result from dilated blood vessels rather than swollen nasal passages. Why some people experience this phenomenon remains unclear, but taking prescription anti-inflammatory medication before cardio sessions might alleviate symptoms. But serious health issues might also bring about head pressure during cardio. Potential disorders for which an exercise headache is a symptom include bleeding in the brain, tumors or reduced arterial flow.

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