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

Cause

Literally thousands of patients sharing their experiences on this website have commented on this unpleasant side effect.  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.

The 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.

-Greg

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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44 Comments on "Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy"

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Greg
November 1, 2013 7:17 am

Thanks Danyelle. Hope you get feeling better soon! I appreciate all of your comments- It’s what brings this site to life- an amazing community!

Daynelle
October 31, 2013 10:43 pm

Excellent research Greg! I hope you’ve received some awards for this website. Seriously it has been a blessing to me! I just sent my boyfriend to the store for some gum, it feels like I’m on an airplane, my ears hurt bad. What has kept the edge off for me is just sitting up. Especially after drinking or (attempting) to eat anything. The days that I fell asleep laying flat were the worst, I spoke with a nurse who said the acid from my empty stomach went up my esophagus to my wounds, irritating it more, which leads to my ears. Thanks again Greg.

Greg
November 1, 2013 7:20 am

oops- meant that to be a reply^^^^^^^

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