Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy

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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 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.

-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!

307 thoughts on “Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy

  1. I am 32 amd 7 days post ok. The first 4 days were fine but then the ear pain started . holy cow why did no one mention the ear pain. It is awful. Its worse than my throat pain ever was. The only relief I have found was laying at a 35 45 degrees with ice packs on both side of my neck. I dont know why this position works but so far thats the only relief I have found. I hope someone finds relief from this as well. Good luck all!

  2. I’m 45 and currently on day six, Had my tonsils removed on 15/10/18. if I had know about the pain I wouldn’t of got it done! When will this ear ache stop? I feel like nothing is taking the edge off this. Nice warm baths do help a little but you can’t stay in there all day! Night times are the worst! I want to sleep, need to sleep! Not a chance the pain comes ten folds! I just hope this is going to worth it. Can hardly speak. Trying to eat is a nightmare, bland soft food is the best but even that can be painful. I’ve a feeling this will take more than two weeks to heal.

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