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.

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.


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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104 Comments on "Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy"

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July 12, 2016 9:10 pm

Hi I’m Eli, 29 M in the military and I had my tonsils removed on 06 July 2016 and today is day 6. The first day sucked big time, I felt nauseous like I was about to puke all over but never did. I was able to keep calm and control it but felt weak the whole day. Could hardly swallow anything because it felt like I was swallowing glass, even with the drugs I was given which I can’t remember the name of. I do know that it was in liquid form and couldn’t take a crap for almost 3 days but it help with the pain. I ate a little creamed chicken soup and then later in the day started filling aches, pains, and dizziness so I let the warm water of the shower run on me and helped did help a little. Day 1-3 didn’t do much talking, which is hard for me because I can’t be paid to shut my face. Also I had a little uncomfortableness but could handle the throat pain. Day 4-6 is when my ears starting pulsing and feeling warm, my wife took my temperature near my ears and it was at 101.6 degrees. I put some ice packs near my ears and neck, and it helps trust me. Also I have been eating things like mashed potatoes, soups, jello, pudding, cream of wheat, ice cream, smoothies, and am working on eating French fries with ketchup. (Wait for the fries to cool off and eat with cold ketchup, chew a little and let it dissolve in your mouth and drink with a icee works amazingly!) I have definitely lost some weight but still look like crap. I have drank mostly water, clear Gatorade, and icee’s which help a lot. Ears have been the biggest problem for me, like I am on an air plane and my ears are about to pop. Also being as I don’t get to many sick days in the miltary I had to go back to work on day 5 and 6 which was left me feeling weak and having dizzy spells, so don’t go right back to work if you can help it. I would recommend to people the days before to drink lots of water to stay hydrated after the sugery and eat a big meal with lots of calories, because not drinking or eating anything after midnight sucks. The surgery leaves you weak and you need and the help you can get. Also have things ready before like ice packs and even a empty bottle to spit into during the day and at night, it better than drooling on your pillow and swallowing your spilt and being in pain. Hope everyone gets better post surgery and hopes this helps a little.

July 19, 2016 8:19 am

I was givin ibuprofen and Hycet. I’m still on them, because it has just been a week after my surgery. It seriously sucks. I hate it.

July 12, 2016 5:10 pm

Hi, I’m summer. I’m 18yo got my tonsillectomy on 7/6/16 and I’m 1 day away from a week since I got my tonsils out and some other thing that I keep forgetting that they usually takeout as well. The first day of my recovery was alright. Uncomfortable for sure! But then I woke up the next morning, it wasn’t that bad. Till the evening, it hit and was very sore. Felt like I needed to hock up something when it was just my uvula so swollen resting upon my tongue and stuff. Then the 3rd day my uvula blocked my throat. I heard you should get lots of fluids when that wasn’t happening, so I went to the hospital they gave me 2 shots, also that was the day the horrid taste started! felt better that night and woke up my 4th day. The earaches started, it was freaking dreadful! Doped up on Tylenol and ibuprofen, the taste makes me want to vomit! When will that go away!?!?!?! The earaches make me want to go cry and I did get teary eyes last night and just they feel like my ears are gonna bleed tremendously. Through the whole process the ears and taste are then worst part! Really praying the worst of it has passed.

July 9, 2016 1:09 pm

Hi, I’m Alexa and I had my tonsils removed 7/5/16. The first couple days I was so sore and felt like I had been hit by a truck 25 times over. A couple days ago the body aches subsided but the throat and ear pain increased. I find myself holding on to my saliva in my mouth as long as possible so I don’t have to swallow. All ive been eating is jello, applesauce, scrambled eggs, popsicles, water, and Gatorade. I hope the worst is behind me

Today 10:58 pm

I just had mine done on the 20th of this month (July), and I do the same thing LOL. I’m just on day 4, and my ears ate hurting really badly; I can somewhat deal with the tonsils, but this ear pain sucks balls.