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What Are the Most Common Causes of Ear and Neck Pain?

A woman with ear and neck pain.
There are several causes for ear pain.
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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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The causes of both ear and neck pain are often related because of their distance to each other, but their pain may also function separately from each other and be unrelated. Usually, ear pain is associated with an ear infection or can even be caused by a dental problem which leads to pain behind the ear that radiates down the neck. Common causes of neck pain include strain or improper sleeping positions, and often times this pain may be felt behind the ear creating the illusion of an earache. Treating ear and neck pain can include simple exercises or prescription antibiotics if an ear infection is the culprit.

Due to the close proximity of the ear and neck, oftentimes the ear or the neck can influence one another when associated with pain. If the earache is due to infection or poor sleeping habits, then that pain might radiate down into the neck giving the illusion of neck strain or pain. When ear and neck pain become intense and occur simultaneously, it is mainly due to one or the other becoming inflamed, strained or infected. When trying to determine the origin of the pain, it is often wise to seek out professional help which will then aid in finding and treating the cause of the pain.

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Pain in the gums and dental area can increase pain in both the ear and neck, as the mouth sits in the middle of the area which promotes the pain which then travels up and down to these parts of the body. Dental pain is another common cause of ear and neck pain and can be treated with appropriate dental measures and procedures by a dentist. Treating ear and neck pain through dental procedures may involve being prescribed an anti-inflammatory to dull the pain and either teeth pulling or other treatments deemed appropriate by a certified dentist. This example shows that the origin of pain can be quite different from the actual experience of the perceived location.

Sleeping in positions which promote curvature of unordinary positions of the spine may create neck pain by influencing the discs in the upper spinal column. Strain on the neck through injury may also promote neck pain which may radiate to the outer ear, giving the perception of an earache. An ear infection may also be the culprit behind ear and neck pain and may be treated with antibiotics. Certain earaches may also be due to sleeping on the ear or problems with the ear drum, which needs to be addressed to a licensed medical doctor.

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Discuss this Article

anon310113
Post 5

My mum is 65 and she has inflammation as well as pain in the ear around the neck and side of the head.

She has already had an MRI done and her ear checked, and the doctor says the report is normal but nothing is helping.

Sometimes she has severe pain and she even can't put her head on the pillow. She is taking some medicine(Gabapin 300 and Zeptol cr 200) but it seems like the medicine is just pain relief and it's not eliminating the pain completely. Any suggestions?

giddion
Post 4

I get ear and neck muscle pain if I talk on the phone too long. My sister lives four hours away, and we talk for about an hour every Saturday night. This usually makes both my neck and my ear ache.

Since we talk for so long, I usually end up doing other things while on the phone. This means that I press the phone to my shoulder with my ear, and my neck is tilted at an angle that becomes uncomfortable before long.

Once my ear becomes really sore and my neck is getting cramped, I go and sit down and switch the phone to the other ear. I really should get a hands-free headset, but I can't afford one right now.

lighth0se33
Post 3

I got an ear infection last summer, and at first, I wasn't sure whether the pain was coming from my neck or my ear. It did seem most intense inside my ear, but my neck was so close to the source that the pain was confusing.

I went to my doctor, who told me I had an inner ear infection and gave me antibiotics. I didn't know that they would relieve my neck pain, but they did.

In fact, the neck pain disappeared before the ear pain did. This was probably because the neck pain was just a side effect of the ear infection and not directly related to it.

kylee07drg
Post 2

@StarJo – It sounds like you need to buy a slanted pillow. These are designed to be ergonomic and comfortable while propping you up at an angle.

When you sleep on a couple of regular pillows, you get stiff neck pain, because instead of your neck resting at a gently sloping angle, it is forced to curve upward. I used to sleep on two pillows, too, and I would always wake up stiff.

Since I have been using the slanted pillow, I haven't had any ear and neck pain problems. I take it with me on trips now, because I have been spoiled by its comfort.

StarJo
Post 1

I sometimes experience ear, neck and shoulder pain upon waking. I have to sleep with my head propped up on two pillows, because I have sinus drainage that chokes me during the night if I lie flat.

The pain is most intense in my neck. If I turn my head a certain way, it is unbearable. My shoulders usually feel stiff and achy, too.

If I have been sleeping on my side, then the area behind my ear on that side will be really sore. It will also feel a little bit strained like my neck.

I really don't know what to do about this, because I have to sleep propped up on something. I hate waking up in pain every morning, though.

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