He visited our office for a follow-up after he had severe neck pain that did not resolve for a few days. This patient had previously visited us for a lower back problem that had improved over the past few months.
As we spoke, he mentioned that his right ear had felt clogged, and that his doctor had again recommended prednisone, after evaluating his ears. Other than the sensation of a clogged ear which was annoying on his right side, he had no other symptoms.
Since he had so many problems with his lower back and now his neck, the last thing he ever thought of mentioning was his clogged ear. Often, people will not volunteer information that does not seem to be related to their current complaint. It is probably due to our reductionist medical system that looks at every symptom as an individual problem, and then will send you to specialists who will again look more deeply into that symptom, while ignoring possible mechanisms behind the problem.
From a chiropractors point of view, we are trained to look at people more holistically, rather than from a reductionist point of view, which is probably why our profession is more effective in managing problems such as back and neck pain and knee problems. The body is holistic in design, so why are doctors trained to look at the symptom and treat it with drugs or procedures?
During my evaluation, the side of his body that had the clogged ear was also very tight from his foot through his shoulder and neck. He had less neck pain from the other day but complained that his back was stiff and tight and that he was feeling unbalanced when using our offices treadmill.
When I evaluated his jaw, the muscles inside the jaw, known as the medial and internal pterygoids on the side of his clogged ear was in spasm and his jaw movement was restricted on that side. This often coincides with spasm of the eustacean tube, AKA the auditory tube and is responsible for most ear infections in both children and adults.
It is quite common for mechanical problems in the lower body to affect the upper body, causing a clogged ear, neck pain and even vertigo.
After working on his jaw muscles, the patient felt relief of pressure in the neck and inside the ear. During the visit, we also worked on the right myofascia in the legs and pelvis to improve the way he is moving and walking (it is the myofascia that is responsible for movement patterns).
Working these muscles by hand is a natural approach that resolves the cause of the problem in many instances, without the use of a broadly recommended medication which will not correct this type of mechanical dysfunction. In some cases, it is appropriate to recommend a dentist if the patients bite is part of the Eustachian tube problem. The problem is a mechanical one, requiring a mechanical solution such as chiropractic as well as a dentist in certain situations. Sometimes, an adjustment to the jaw will markedly improve muscular and jaw function and will also relax neck muscles in the region.
When compared to his doctors broad recommendation of prednisone which is often used for inflammation but can have marked side effects, what disease was his doctor treating and did he have any understanding of why this patient had these symptoms?
The medical world has its own description of the problem as well as its own recommendations, but how effective and appropriate is their reductive approach.
Why does a Eustachian tube ultimately dysfunction?
If it is a mechanical problem (which is the most common reason), how can you justify using a drug with known side effects that can maybe reduce the symptoms but not solve the mechanism behind the problem? It is like trying to fix a machine with a liquid that quiets down the noise you are hearing, yet the problem eventually damages the machine since the noise was warning us that the machine was functioning poorly. You eventually experience another more damaging problem months or years later. It works the same way in the body; if the jaw is causing the Eustachian tube problem, why are we medicating the body? Eventually, you may have a very expensive dental visit.
The common possibilities of why your ear is clogged.
- Wax in the ear canal
- Clogged eustacean tube
- Jaw alignment issues from bruxism or a loss of teeth.
- Pressure on an airplane affecting the eustacean tube.
- Mechanical problems in other parts of the body.
The patient on his follow-up visit noted a marked improvement in his ear and the way it felt. This is a common problem that is often treated by primary doctors with a drug, instead of working on the Eustachian tube directly, as well as the musculature that surrounds the area. Quite often, it is also related to past and current back and neck
complaints as well as problems in the shoulders, feet and arms.
Problems such as this are best directed to a chiropractor first, who can assess the problem properly and who may also send you to a dentist if you have problems with bruxism or missing molars in the back of the mouth. A holistic approach to why the problem is occurring is most likely to reveal the mechanism behind the problem.
While Prednisone is commonly used for inflammation, it does not work on a specific area and has known side effects. Medically, accepted use does not necessarily translate into an appropriate usage of the medication, when other conservative direct approaches may actually address why the Eustachian tube problem exists.
What type of doctor should you see first; all roads lead to holistic providers and the best trained would be your local chiropractor.
Wikihow offers some great ideas on how to resolve a clogged ear or eustacean tube on your own. Check it out here.