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 have found that liquid Benadryl helps with the ear pain.

    My mom the nurse figured that if my sinuses were filling with mucus, my eustachian tubes would be affected as well. Benadryl every three hours has helped a lot.

  2. My 8 year old son got operated for tonsils and adenoids on 30 December, 2017 and began complaining of a ear ache by day 3. A heat pad seemed to help but application of a single drop of wintergreen oil around each ear calmed an extremely painful child who woke up in the middle of the night crying with unbearable pain.

    1. Forgot to mention that the wintergreen oil was diluted with mustard oil 1:4 parts. Olive or coconut oil can also be used in the same proportion- means 1 spoon of wintergreen mix wittb4 spoons of olive oil. Use a drop of the mixture to massage the external ear.

    2. My 8 yr old too is complaining about severe ear pain. Waking her in pain. She is having 4/24 Endone still – day 8 tomorrow…

  3. Oh and I am 52 years old.

  4. I had my tonsils, the uvula and soft tissue removed as well as septum correction on December 19th. For the most part it had been an easy recovery. My only issue was i child not breath through my nose for the lady couple days which caused my mouth and throat to dry out constantly. Using the nasal rinse had resolved that problem. Now my only outside is the eat pain when swallowing. I use a combination of hot and cold compresses. Also drinking warm soup and herbal teas. Anything frozen now creates a lot of pain in swallowing. Drinking the medication also burns my throat now and is very painful. It goes away quickly though.

    I do not recommend getting the mouth and sinuses done at the same time.

  5. I’m 27, got my tonsils taken out in December 18. No one warns you about the ear pain! The only relief I’m getting from it is putting two ice packs on either side of my head. It feels very much like strep throat, making swallowing painful in the ears. One thing that has helped with swallowing pain is a couple of bullion cubes dissolved in warm water. The warmth is soothing and the sodium from the bullion helps the throat retain water. Hope this helps!

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