To calm the nerves of the allopathic crowd I specifically DO NOT mean can I treat ear infections! I see that as being entirely in the remit of the GP. However, I have had two patients in with pain that I have helped with:
Patient 1 woke up, stretched and pushed his hand up the side of his head. Immediately, he started to feel upper neck and ear pain that ran behind and over the top of his ear. He said he was able to reduce this by pushing below his ear, under his earlobe, with his thumb. The pain could be made worse by turning his head away from the bad side and looking upwards. He could also make it very sharp by pulling on his ear. His Tempromandibular joint on the bad side was also clicking and felt swollen and his teeth were not aligned quite right. He added that his hearing was slightly muffled.
I did an examination and his ear appeared fine – not red or oozing any ‘stuff’. However his upper cervical joint on that side was absolutely immobile. Following a chiropractic spinal manipulation the pain faded immediately and couldn’t then be exacerbated by turning his head. Interestingly, he has done this to his neck several times since then – the madman! In his defence, he says he can’t help it as he’s essentially asleep when he stretches and forgets not to push his head about. Pleasingly, he also knows that all he has to do is see me and I can stop the pain in its tracks.
Patient 2 had a similar pain that she could not shake. She took it to the GP which was helpful as this rules out the infection and ‘other issues’ that might be unnerving. Her pain ran up the side of her neck, into her ear and over the top of her eyebrow. Once again her ear felt blocked and sound seemed muffled. Now she had a slightly different thing happening and that was that the muscles of her neck were hypertonic.
This was a work problem exacerbated by her anterior head carriage, which is explained in this page from our blog. Some of these muscles, such as the Sternocleidomastoid attach to the mastoid process just behind your ear. Others, like the Digastric muscle attach to a spine just below. Others attach to the transverse process of your C1 vertebrae. In patient 2’s case the anterior head or forward head carriage changed the anatomical axis these muscles work on leading to tissue compression in some places and tissue stretch in others.
There are some very set referred pain patterns from these muscles that will cause some of this pain. Once you know these, it is clear what is going on. However, both these patients had unusual pain and also this muffling of their hearing. Without a decent grasp of anatomy and an understanding of referred pain treatment for these sorts of problems can get a bit wild.
What to do about ear pain?
Go to your GP. This’ll ensure that the problem is not an infection or something more worrying. Then, once you’ve been given the all-clear and told to go away come and see us and let’s sort the problem out.