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.
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 My short bio
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!
Oh Mary you are scaring me. My ear just stated 6 days post op. I can’t imagine it lasting another whole week. What did you do? I also had a deviated septum repaired, so I can barely breathe out of my nose.
I am 48 years old and I didn’t know this pain was going to be this bad going on 2 weeks and the pain is so bad it was easier to have a baby. My ears hurt so bad, still can’t hardly talk, still on a liquid diet. the one positive thing is I have lost so much weight. But I don’t wish this on no one Thank God my kids had there done at a young age. Thanks for all the tips I will try them.
i am 23 and my ear pain has been excruciating. i keep saying id rather be giving birth as well. i havent slept but a couple hours in 3 nights becuase of it. i wake up wanting to scream and there is no position that helps at all. it hits worse at night no matter how i lay. no medicine helps the slightest bit. i am at day 7 and i barley realize my throat hurts with how much my ears are taking the spotlight. i do not wish this pain on anyone. its like someone diggging razor blades in my ear canal.
Hi Patricia! Sorry you’re having such a rough time. 🙁 Have you tried chewing gum for your ear pain? It helped me a little. You might also try a warm compress on your neck and jaw area. Hope this helps. Hang in there. THIS IS TEMPORARY!!!! – Greg
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!
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.