I read a joke once about a husband’s preemptive strike in the bedroom. He walks in holding two aspirin and a glass of water. When his wife asks what it’s for he says it’s for her headache. She replies “But I don’t have a headache.” “Gotcha!”

Headaches are no fun, so we might as well get a little chuckle at their expense. And if you suffer from sinus headaches, there might be quick and inexpensive relief your doctor hasn’t shared with you.

Listen, I have had allergies since I was small but sinus headaches have been rare. That is, until I got my complete dental implants. They have wildly improved my quality of life, but I have had more intense and regular sinus headaches as a result. My surgeon had removed teeth prior to the implants and freely admitted he had been up in my sinus area. He said I could see an ear nose and throat specialist if the sinus headaches became too much of a problem. He tried to ignore my laughter as I told him I could fix this myself.

There are lots of sites on the internet that describe quite nicely how a sinus headache feels — or any kind of headache, for that matter. But, please. Ignore the treatment recommendations on these sites as they are all rubbish.

Sinusitis is supposed to be the main cause of sinus headache – “itis” meaning inflammation. Doctors will say you need a “professional diagnosis” on this. Personally, I think most people can figure out whether they have a migraine or tension or sinus headache if they think hard and try to be honest.

Folks at Mayo Clinic go straight to the over the counter pain medicine. Personally, I might use Mucinex or some kind of non-sedating decongestant when I have to stay awake. When I’m ready to sleep, I mostly use Benadryl – or an old tried-and-true cheap generic. Either would take maybe 30 to 45 minutes to work.

But now I have experienced 100% relief of my sinus headache pain – from a two dollar gel mask? Yes, purchased at a discount store. I keep it in the fridge. If the headache bothers me, I lie down for 15 minutes and put it on. Right now I am working from home, so there is no boss to tell me I can’t do this.

The technology on gel masks is neither new nor cutting edge — athletes have been using this kind of pack for a long time. Larger ones, one time use ones, or multi-use ones are all over the internet. They are typically a sealed elastic pouch of some sort and touted as “non toxic.” They generally have some kind of chemical reaction that is reversible and are usually endothermic — or heat absorbing –so things get cold. US Patent 4462224 – at least one brand of this type of cold pack — is made of water, propylene glycol, and hydroxpropyl methylcellulose.

According to estimates, there are about 30 million people in these United States who have sinus headache problems. I have not been able to find any figures on how much time is lost from work, how much productivity goes down, or how much family dynamics suffer from “not tonight darling, I have a headache.” And this is only for one kind of headache, which isn’t even the most common. The most common is tension headache, but please don’t ask questions about it. My head hurts just thinking about it!

Sure, there are over the counter meds for sinus headache. But they do not treat the inflammation, which is the cause of the headache. But cold often treats inflammation very, very nicely.

100% cure with a two-dollar cold mask. I may have to apply it again but — non-toxic? Wow. If I were at work I could lean back for five minutes, apply the mask, and maybe get through a day.

Many treating physicians used to give antibiotics for a chronic sinus headache. This causes resistances and treatments that never end and throw people open to possible infections with little bacterium that are resistant to antibiotics. I have had — in psychiatry, mind you — at least three treatment failures that were told they would be on antibiotics for life. They had side effects from same and — well, don’t ask, since all they really needed was a cold pack and a couple of minutes.

When I took my cold pack from the fridge, I was a mouth breather. 15 minutes later, I was back at my computer as a happy nose breather with a fairly functional brain. The question is, if you are one of those thirty million or so sinus headache sufferers in the United States, why don’t you have a nice little cold mask in your pocket or purse and just continue life?

I’ll tell you why –

1. Your source of health information did not tell you about this. Doctors and pharmacists are mostly very decent folks, but they will not send their kids to college on your purchase of a two dollar cold mask.

2. Your source of health information does not know about this. I got this in a discount store. Once, a while ago, I got one in a drugstore. But it was the cheapest of three brands and cost over twice as much and didn’t have as much gel as this one did. It was more for blocking out light.

3. It is unknown who sells this thing. The poorly constructed sheath for the mask fell apart when I opened it for use. I cannot tell you the brand name if I wanted to. Somebody must have screwed up the marketing quite badly if it ended up in a discount store. Nevertheless, it’s definitely not the quality marketing that a drug company would give a drug. No reps in the office, no free vacations, and no presenting of reprints from journals.

4. Maybe a nice website could tell you about this. Hah! Every one of the websites above links to something about treatment — ranging from “see our remedy” to “see your doctor.” Money is made in treatment. Government websites! Hah! Drug companies own them, too, perhaps indirectly. But we Americans think everything is an illness that needs a pill.

Most people, however, do the best they can to schlep through life with chronic conditions like diabetes type II and obesity and high blood pressure. Nobody seems to know what to do so they put more responsibility on the patient, trying to limit the numbers and kinds and ways that people can be sued for this. If a patient in this sector is cured, then that person is no longer a customer.

So yes, it’s a bit more complicated than a $2 cold mask. But it’s a start, and I think you probably get my point.

Our only hope is to decide and enforce a belief – a belief that people cannot profit greedily and endlessly from the chronically medically ill. My husband and I started our SuperPAC to try to remedy this situation. I am figuring out how to bring health into the daily lives of older and chronically suffering Americans. I’d love it if you helped me by going to the web site and signing up for our free (and spam-free) newsletter.

Here’s a toast to pain-free better breathing! SALUD!

Author's Bio: 

Estelle Toby Goldstein, MD is a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice in San Diego, CA.

Practicing Medicine Since 1981

In her medical career, she has studied in Europe and Canada as well as the USA. She has attended specialty training beyond medical school in the fields of general surgery, neurology and neurosurgery and psychiatry (specializing in psychopharmacology).

Experienced In Many Situations

She has worked in a variety of positions, including:
■Medical school professor
■General and Orthopedic surgeon
■Brain surgeon
■Army Medical Corps psychiatrist
■Prison psychiatrist
■Community Mental Health Center staff
■Consultant to a major transplant hospital
■Drug researcher

“Whatever It Takes!”

She currently has her own indepenent clinic in San Diego where she is concentrating on what she calls Mind/Body medicine — or Integrative Medicine. Her practice is cash-only, doesn’t accept insurance or government payments, and she operates on the concierge, or “private doctor” practice model to give her patients the absolute best quality of care and the highest level of confidentiality.

Dr. Goldstein’s philosophy is “Whatever It Takes!” Her goal is to do everything possible to solve whatever problem she is presented. This includes seeing patients as quickly as possible — not making them wait weeks for an appointment. This includes making appointments days, nights, weekends or holidays. This includes making house-calls. And it includes using the best, most innovative treatments available — most of which are unknown to standard, mainstream doctors.

Her focus is on transitioning patients away from prescription drugs and onto natural substances. She is also a master practitioner of Emotional Freedom Technique, a powerful and dynamic form of energy psychology that usually brings quicker results than traditional psychotherapy.

The Expert’s Expert

She has written an advice column in a daily newspaper and hosted a weekly call-in radio show, and now is enjoying the freedom of speaking her mind on this blog.
*Comments or questions can be sent to docteurg@docteurg.com