Background Acupuncture is commonly used to treat chronic sinusitis, though there is little documentation on the effect. This study presents the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) outcomes in a trial comparing traditional Chinese acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and conventional treatment for chronic sinusitis. Findings In a three-armed single blind randomized controlled study, we recruited 65 patients with symptoms of sinusitis >3 months and signs of sinusitis on computed tomography (CT). Patients were randomized to one of three study arms: (1) 2–4 weeks of medication with antibiotics, corticosteroids, 0.9% sodium chloride solution, and local decongestants (n = 21), (2) ten treatments with traditional Chinese acupuncture (n = 25), or (3) ten treatments with minimal acupuncture at non-acupoints (n = 19). Change in HRQoL was assessed over 12 weeks using the Chronic Sinusitis Survey (CSS) and Short form 36 (SF-36) questionnaires. In the study, we found only a non-significant difference on the CSS symptom scale between conventional medical therapy and traditional Chinese acupuncture. On the SF-36 scale role-physical the change was larger in the conventional group than in the sham group (p = 0.02), and on the mental health scale the change in the conventional therapy arm was larger than in the traditional Chinese acupuncture group (p = 0.03). There was no difference in effect on HRQoL on any scale between the sham and traditional Chinese acupuncture groups. Conclusion There was no clear evidence of the superiority of one treatment over another on short-term HRQoL outcomes, although there was a statistically non-significant advantage of conventional therapy in a few dimensions.