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How Do I Choose the Best Treatment for Pain behind the Ear?

Enlarged lymph nodes may cause pain behind the ear.
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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2014
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The best treatment for pain behind the ear typically depends on the cause of the pain. Although over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can significantly relieve pain, the individual needs to find out where the pain is originating. The pain can radiate to the neck or head area, making it difficult to move the head and sleep in a comfortable position.

Mastoiditis refers to a condition where the mastoid bone behind the ear becomes inflamed. This can be caused by injury, disease, or infection, and can be extremely painful and make a patient sensitive to the touch. In addition, an enlarged lymph node can cause pain behind the ear. When an individual has an infection, lymph nodes behind the ear and elsewhere such as on the sides of the neck and under the chin can enlarge and cause pain.

When pain behind the the ear is caused by an infection, antibiotics are sometimes recommended. Sinus infections and upper respiratory infections that are caused by bacteria usually respond to antibiotics. After the antibiotics have been completed and symptoms of the infection have cleared up, lymph node swelling typically resolves. It is important to remember, however, that lymph node swelling and pain can linger long after the resolution of the infection.

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Chronic sinusitis caused by allergies can also cause pain behind the ear. When the sinuses swell and cannot properly drain, fluid and other debris can settle in the sinus cavities located in the back of the head, contributing to pain. Frequently, decongestant medication relieves sinus pain and pressure, which can significantly lesson pain caused by sinus congestion. Decongestant preparations can cause rapid heart beat, anxiety, and insomnia, so patients should talk to their doctors before taking them.

Occasionally, pain behind the ear can develop after a neck injury or nerve disorder. When individuals experience a pinched nerve in the neck or a cervical disc problem, pain not only manifests in the neck area but also behind the ear. For this type of pain, anti-inflammatory medications and acetaminophen are usually recommended. Sometimes, however, prescription pain medication is needed for severe pain, and in rare cases, surgical intervention might be indicated when disc or nerve problems persist.

When infection is present and the pain and pressure behind the ear do not relent, alternative methods of treatment may be needed. Sometimes, another course of antibiotics might be needed, or even a different antibiotic altogether might be recommended to relieve symptoms. In addition, non-medication methods of reducing this type of pain include applying a heating pad or a cold pack to the area.

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