Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy

307 Comments

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. Hi , im alfred
    I got my tonsils and adenoid removed on september 11 2018. I wish i didnt remove my tonsils. I think giving birth should be less painful than thos . Cant even swallow my saliva. Ear pain is very high that i feel like plucking out my ears and cleaning it . Hope my pain reduces in the coming days. I read all your comments and i thankyou for sharing it.
    Thanks

  2. Heat always made my ear hurt very bad, so I tried an ice pack withba thin fabric wrapped around it, and it made my ear feek better.

    1. When did ears stopped hurting you ? Please Can you mention after how many days it stopped? Now I’m on 8th day after surgery. The pain is so severe from past 3 days and I couldn’t sleep atleast.

      1. I had my tonsillectomy Aug 20th, 2018
        I’m in so much pain, jaw,ears, throat are killing me! I have a high tolerance for pain… but this shit is a hole another level of pain. Im literally in tears cant sleep eat… I just want to bang my head against the wall. I’ve had neck surgery, hysterectomy, given birth no problem. But this tonsillectomy is crazy ass painful. I’m ready to take painkillers with tequila shots. This liquid pain med and ibuprofen isn’t cutting it. Sorry needed to vent. I so regret this surgery!!!! FML!! My ears still hurt even with heating pad and ice packs.

        1. Hey Cindy, I totally know how you feel I got mine out on the 13th of August and I wish I never did it. I have a pretty good pain tolerance but I have never experienced this much pain and it’s driving me crazy aswell. I’m nearly 3 weeks post op and I have had a horrible run. I didn’t eat at all or drink hardly anything for the first week I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva as I was in so much pain and I was at the point of collapsing by the end of that week and due to the immense levels of pain ended up in hospital for the entire second week with IV Fluids, antibiotics, pain medication (morphine) the works and nothing could control my pain. The only thing that helped me begin to eat so I could just begin the healing process was xylocaine viscous gel it’s a local anaesthetic that I was given in hospital and used a syringe to apply onto my throat and it temporarily slightly numbs your throat so you can at least get a bit of soft food and water down your throat it still hurts a bit but it’s the most pain relief I got with trying to eat and unfortunately and it’s something I struggled with hearing eating is one of the things that helps the healing process start. The gel is pretty pricey just over the Counter at the chemist but if you go into your local emergency and express the amount of pain your in they may give you a small amount for free. Keeping up with nurofen, panadol and a pain relief for example endone helps aswell, just really try and stay hydrated. The ear pain Is horrible and I wish I knew a way to help, as I need one !! Chewing gum and heat packs slightly reduces my pain but I’m nearly at the 3 week mark and I’m still not coping with my ears. I really hope this helps and you find some relief !!
          Alana

      2. I’m day 18 post op still chewing gum and using heat packs and one of my ears still hasn’t stopped hurting, it constantly feels like I’m being stabbed in my ear !!

  3. Usually never comment but this tip has saved me so much trouble. My ear pain started getting unmanageable at around day 3, i thought i was going crazy. Combined with the teeth ache and inability to eat/drink day 14 seemed like it was never going to come. At first i would get an ice pack and place it around my ear and that seemed to help but as day 4-6 rolled around and it wasn’t enough. ***So, I ran a q-tip/cotton swab under cold running water (just one side) and placed it on the outside of the ear canal. When it got cool enough to reduce the pain in that area i turned the q-tip around (to the dry side) and spread the cold around the ear canal and that honestly was the best relief i had ever felt. Ever since I have kept q-tips handy.*** Good luck to everyone going through this.

  4. July 3 I had my tonsils removed and some polyps in my nose. After the gauze was removed from my nose the pressure isn’t so bad. My throat feels like my tonsils are still there because of the swelling and that maybe I’m feeling the stiches string. That’s a bit bothering. Overall My healing process is better than everyone expected considering I’m 30years old. One thing that is bothering me is that everything I drink or the little bit I can eat feels like it’s “going down the wrong tube” or to my ears. It’s a funny feeling that I hope subsides soon. I put cotton balls in there while I drink and eat. And at night it helped to put a blanket around my head so the cold air wouldn’t hit so hard and covered the air from drying out my throat while I sleep. It’s summer and I can’t make my partner suffer. Hope my testimony helped others..

  5. I’m on day 5 and for the last two days I had sharp ear pain when trying to eat certain foods but today I discovered that I had to chew on a cup of ice before meal and then I could eat anything. I make my ice cups by adding a bit of vitamin drink powder to the water (less than usual because it would be too sour) and then putting it in the freezer and breaking the ice with a spoon so it looks like colored snow in the end. It also helps when my scab starts bleeding a little.

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