Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy

After tonsillectomy surgery, patients have plenty of unpleasant side effects to deal with.  Swelling of the uvula, tongue, and throat are usually the first hurdle adults have to deal with post tonsillectomy. Swallowing and breathing can be difficult.  This isn’t too surprising, especially considering all that the throat has been through.  Icing and gargling with ice water can help reduce this swelling, as can a steroidal treatment. The next problem after tonsillectomy, usually a day or so post-op, is pain in the throat area.  Again, no big surprise.  Icing is also a good way to treat, as are narcotic pain killers and/or over the counter pain medications.  Topical analgesics like throat sprays can also offer some relief.

What surprises many is a phenomena occurring several days into their tonsillectomy recovery- ear pain.

Post Tonsillectomy Ear Pain – Cause and Treatment


Literally thousands of patients sharing their experiences on this website have commented that their ears hurt after tonsillectomy.  Ear pain after tonsillectomy is probably the second or third most common side effect that patients experience- second only to pain and swelling.  But why does this happen? There was no scalpel or hot knife near the ears, so why should they feel like they’re being stabbed?  The cause of ear pain post tonsillectomy starts at the throat and radiates to the ears.  This is called a referred pain. Take a look at the attached diagram and note the lingual nerve.  It’s directly connected to the ears and throat.

Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy- a diagram

Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy- What’s Going on?

Treatments and Home Remedies

This referred pain can be quite severe. Often prescribed pain medications do not seem to relieve the ear pain that many experience after tonsillectomy. In addition to the pain medicines patients are taking, there are two home remedies that usually can provide some relief. The first of which is chewing gum. In light of the unpleasant side effect of have sugary residue in and around the throat, most tonsillectomy patients prefer a sugar -free gum. A mint flavor can also feel cooling. Exactly why chewing gum relieves ear pain is hard to say. Certainly activating the muscles around the ears and jaw may help, but more likely, like yawning, gum chewing releases pressure from the ear area.
Seagate Olive Leaf Throat SprayThe second remedy for ear pain after tonsillectomy is applying a heating pad or warm compress to the affected area. Again, the reason for its effectiveness is not entirely clear but most patients describe a relaxing comfort from applying a wet, warm towel or electric heating pad to the affected area. To reduce inflammation, alternate between warm and cold compresses.


Have you found a trick for taking the edge off of ear pain, especially after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy? Please share it in the comments section below. Thank you!

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128 Comments on "Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy"

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October 23, 2016 9:38 pm

I’m 24 and I had my tonsils removed on Wednesday (19/10/2016) everything was going fine, normal amount of pain I thought & getting through the medication fine until Friday. I got a tablet stuck in my throat, coughed it up, saw a small amount of blood so myself to the bathroom. Where I then started to loose a huge amount of blood through being sick & bleeding. I have to say this was THE most scariest point! I was rushed to hospital via ambulance and admitted straight away. I had picked up an infection :/…after being pumped with pain relief & antibiotics I was discharged the next day. It is now early hours of Monday morning. Thinking I couldn’t possibly take anymore, I woke with the mosh excruciating pain in my jaw and up to the ears at 11:30pm and again at 3am. I’ve had more pain relief, but it doesn’t seem to touch the sides. I’ve also tried ice packs and they aren’t helping either……not sure how much more I can take! Any suggestions on how to relieve this pain, I would be hugely grateful!!

October 17, 2016 8:51 pm

I am on day 6 of my recovery and my ears hurt so bad when I swallow that I cry. What can I do????

October 13, 2016 6:04 pm

Hi all,

On day 3 of recovery and boy do I wish I found these threads BEFORE I went through with the surgery. But then I might not have done it, so I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise? We shall see.

I’m 22 y/o and I had excruciating throat pain and a swollen uvula blocking my throat –making it impossible to swallow or speak– since day one. I started reading a bunch of recovery stories and prepared myself for a week of this horrible pain when swallowing (literally feels like I’m swallowing knives) but no one mentioned the ear pain! It has kicked in today and it has been far from pleasant. The combination of symptoms has made this the most painful experience of my life, hands down. However, I find that alternating between hot and cold compresses on the ears do give some relief. Still seeking relief on the swollen uvula as swallowing sips of water hasn’t helped much and is extremely painful 🙁

Hopefully I can post a positive update in a few weeks. Thanks for sharing your stories, wishing everyone a speedy recovery!