The pain behind the ears and down the neck can be related to each other. The pain may occur due to various causes and underlying conditions. Let us understand the causes of pain behind the ear and down the neck and the treatment to get rid of it.

Neck pain is a common issue many people complain about. The pain may spread or radiate to other parts of the body such as the prominent bone behind the ears, shoulders or back. Sometimes the pain is persistent causing a continuous discomfort in movements. The pain can also occur at intervals and last for short durations. The causes of such pain can vary from person to person. It is important to pay immediate attention to any such pain and provide the most appropriate treatment, at the earliest.

What are the Causes of Pain Behind the Ear and Down the Neck?

What are the Causes of Pain Behind the Ear and Down the Neck?

Commonly, pain behind the ear and down the neck can occur at intervals or for short durations. Some of the common causes of pain behind the ear and down the neck include the following:

Cervicogenic Headache:

Pain behind ear and down the neck is often caused due to cervicogenic headache. Such headache might be a result of dysfunction in the muscles, joints, nerves or even the fascia.

Muscular Pain Due to a Spasm:

A spasm or sprain in the muscles of the neck or shoulders is the commonest cause of pain behind the ears and down the neck. The muscles around the neck and shoulders are connected to each other. Therefore any jerks in one part of the neck or shoulder can cause pain that may spread to the complete neck area, shoulders and behind the ears.

Injury to the Neck

A sudden impact due to any neck injury can cause pain in the neck. Such injury can be caused due to an accident or sprain during regular activities or sports. Any strain or injury in the neck region, particularly upper neck, can cause pain behind the ears and down the neck.

Swimmer's Ear

The water that remains in the ears after a swim affects the thin lining on the eardrums which in turn causes pain in the ear. This is also a common cause of pain behind the ears and down the neck.

Using Sharp Object to Clear Earwax:

Excessive build up of ear wax and using sharp object to clean ears often causes irritation or sometimes even injury to the ear. This can cause pain behind ears, which can even extend down the neck.

Infection in the Ears:

Bacterial infections in the ear can cause pain. Such infections can also cause fever or swelling in and around the ears affecting the space behind the eardrums causing accumulation of inflammatory fluids. Conditions like otitis media and other ear infections commonly cause pain behind the ear and down the neck.

Throat Infection:

An infection in the throat or upper respiratory infections often cause pain behind the ear and down the neck.

Dental Issues:

Sometimes, dental issues like tooth infection or after tooth extraction, there can be pain in the related area. Such pain can often radiate to the ears and can be one of the causes of pain behind the ear and down the neck.

Severe Causes of the Pain Behind the Ear and Down the Neck

Apart from the common causes, here are some of the severe causes of pain behind the ears and down the neck.

Mastoiditis

The bone behind the ear is called the mastoid bone. A bacterial infection affecting the bone or an abnormal formation of cyst in the ears can cause severe pain. The pain can spread to the neck with symptoms like swelling, fever, irritation and redness behind the ears.

Pain in the Tempero-Mandibular Joint

Tempero-Mandibular joint is the joint that connects the lower and upper jaw. Any injuries, bruises or infection in the joint can cause severe pain that can cause pain behind the ear and down the neck.

Vertebrae Pain or Cervical Headache

The pain occurring in the vertebrae or bones of the neck can be due to the dislocation or dysfunction of the segments of the spinal cord. This may occur due to a forceful impact during an accident or sudden fall. Other conditions like cervical spondylosis, cervical disc protrusion or other damage to the cervical spine can cause pain behind the ear and down the neck.

Treatment of Pain Behind Ears and Down the Neck

There are various causes of pain behind the ears and down the neck. The origin of the pain and reason for the pain can be found only after a complete history, physical examination and investigations to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests, physical exams, x-rays, CT scans and complete body check up are done to identify the underlying cause. The pain can be muscular, due to an injury or due to an infection affecting the ears, throat, mastoid bone, or the spinal cord. Treatment of pain behind the ear and down the neck can be done after identifying the exact cause of the pain. Once the cause of the pain is determined, the treatment plan can be devised.

If the pain behind the ear and down the neck is due to an infection and can be treated by medication, doctors would suggest the use of ear drops and antibiotics. While antibiotics can cure the infection, doctors suggest mild painkillers for relief from pain. If the pain behind the ear and down the neck is due to spasm or injury, physiotherapy exercises or gentle massage can be a course of treatment. For the treatment of pain occurring in the joints of the jaws and spinal cord, surgery or physiotherapy is suggested by doctors. Any other cause must be appropriately treated to provide relief in pain behind ears and down the neck.

Preventive Measures

Whether it is a chronic pain or a short duration pain behind the ear and down the neck, it can be prevented with the following measures:

  • To prevent infection in the ear due to excessive buildup of ear wax, etc., proper and regular cleaning of the ears with soft and safe tools should be done. It is recommended to clean ears with a soft cotton cloth or ear bud with blunt ends.
  • To prevent pain due to remaining water after swimming, it is recommended to wear proper head gear that will prevent the water to enter the ears helping to prevent pain behind ears.
  • It is necessary to maintain correct posture to avoid any spasm or sprain in the muscle in the neck region. While waking up in the morning, get up slowly and carefully taking proper support to avoid any jerk to the muscles.
  • In case of an injury, proper support should be given to the neck and shoulders so that the impact does not cause any damage to the muscle or bones. For people with existing neck problems, it is important to continue proper treatment, exercises and rest to prevent pain behind ear and down the neck.
  • Regular stretching and massages can help relieve any stress in the neck region. This is best done with the help of experts and after medical advice.

Conclusion

The pain behind the ears and down the neck can be caused due to some very basic reasons and can be easily treated with medication and exercise. However, seek immediate medical help if the pain intensifies, fever occurs or increases even after medications. See a doctor immediately, if no improvement in pain is experienced even after medicines are taken and in an event of vomiting, locked jaws or headache. Be it a persistent pain or a pain for short intervals, once the cause of the pain is identified, the doctors can suggest the proper course of treatment. Though the treatment can be done for such pain, preventive measures to avoid the pain can help in every way.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: March 28, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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