Today I was reading a case study discussing the success of chiropractic in the care of an infant suffering
from ear infections and respiratory tract infection. It made me think… what a great topic for our
blog. Everyday in our office we see infants and children coming in complaining of ear pain or repeat
infections. For the average person, ear infections are likely the last thing that you think about when you
think about going to a chiropractor. However, once you understand that it is what is inside the spine
that is important, you will understand the role a chiropractor can have in working with ear infections.
The spine protects the function of the spinal cord and its ability to transport messages from the brain
to the rest of the body. Since the nervous system controls every single function within the body, the
function of the spine is vital to the over all health of the body. The nerves that leave the upper area of
the spine send signals to the structures with the ear and play a vital part in the function of the immune
system. If those nerves are being impacted by the position of the first two bones in the neck, the tissues
within the ear become vulnerable and susceptible to infection. The immune system also becomes
slightly suppressed and voila… the perfect scenario for bacteria to thrive.
So what is the thing that most doctors prescribe when there is infection within the ear? Antibiotics;
which may very well kill off the bacteria, but what does it do to prevent a future infection? If there is
still a misalignment in the spine which is affecting how the tissues within the ear function, the scenario
which created the infection in the first place is still there. And voila… a repeat infection. And so the cycle
continues until someone hopefully recommends that they see a chiropractor. The child will likely need
a concentrated course of gentle chiropractic adjustments designed to realign the vertebra and remove
any stress from the nervous system. This allows the tissues within the ear to heal and function properly.
Once the tissues are strong there is no longer an opportunity for the bacteria to thrive.
But what about the pain? Are there things I can do to help my child feel more comfortable during the
healing process? Yes.
- Warmth against the outside of the ear may provide some comfort. Use a warm washcloth or a warm
- To ease some of the pressure, have your child sleep with the sore ear up.
- Place several drops of warm olive oil in the ear (as long as there is no discharge and no tubes are
present) every 2-3 hours. The easiest way to warm olive oil is to put a small amount of the oil in a small
glass (a shot glass works perfect). Submerge that glass within a bowl (or a larger glass) of hot water.
Allow it to sit within the hot water until it the oil is warm (not hot). It also helps to add a single drop of
tea tree oil to the olive oil.
- Swallowing opens the Eustachian tube and drains the fluid from the middle ear, so if your child is over
the age of four, try having them chew gum. Have babies drink plenty of liquids.
- Try cold sock treatment to stimulate the immune system and relieve congestion.
Is there anything that I should watch for which could mean this is more than an ear infection? In rare
occasions, there may be other more serious causes of ear pain. These are things to watch for which may
require an immediate trip to the hospital:
- the child has a stiff neck, cannot touch his/her chin to their chest, or cannot curl into the fetal position
and kiss their knee
- there is redness, swelling and tenderness over the bone behind the ear (mastoiditis)
- the child has ear pain and none of the above but is acting very sick and your intuition tells you
something is wrong. I can not say this enough about Mothers. Our intuition is very strong. Always listen