Earaches to IBS

(Sumter, SC)

Chilly night air always causes a throbbing earache in my left ear as does air from an air conditioning vent. The pain spreads to my other ear and then to my neck and sinuses. Before long I have a throbbing headache, pain in my teeth and jaw area. The pain is so intense that my lower abdomen begins to cramp and I feel sick all over. These symptoms recently lasted for 5 full days and nights, and I became very weak from not being able to eat.

I have had sinus and ear infections off and on for about 10 years which were usually resolved with antibiotics. I also developed IBS symptoms and was treated with Reglan for 6 months which caused tardive dyskenesia (jaw clenching). My doctor stopped the medication and put me on Paxil for depression.

Two years later I was able to wean off the Paxil. I also have allergies (dust, mold, chocolate, eggs to name a few).

Recently, a CT scan showed up TMJ problems and a deviated septum. I still have to be very careful what I eat and how much I eat. I'm sure the daily stress of caring for my 97-year-old mother for the past 4 years and having to use a patient lift to move her from bed to wheelchair,etc. has not helped my situation. I love my mother dearly and she is such a sweet person. I am not sure where to start, but I don't know if I can get through another pain episode like this last one.

I love to work in my yard which helps relieve some stress, but I'm afraid to go outside unless the weather is "perfect". I forgot to mention that a sudden thunderstorm also starts my earaches, etc. even though I am inside.????? I am 71 years old and otherwise in excellent health.


Because the Trigeminal nerve, the fifth cranial n, carries sensory information from a huge area in the head, all with the sensory nucleus in the upper neck, one often gets a confusing pattern of symptoms, as you describe. What is sometimes difficult is be certain where the primary source of pain is. It could be the sinuses, the teeth, the jaw joint, the skin of the face including the external ear and the meninges covering parts of the brain. Each of the parts has to be considered separately; a neurologist is often the best qualified to make the correct diagnosis.

However, you yourself can give vital information. Do you have painful tooth when you chew on it, or a blocked sinus? Does your jaw joint pop or click when you open your mouth. If you place your fingers just in front of the tragus of the ear is the jaw joint particular sensitive to pressure? If you touch your face, or squeeze the pinna of the ear, is it sensitive.

There is often associated pain in the neck because that's where the sensory nucleus is located.

That jaw clenching may be very significant. At the TMJ anatomy page you will see the temporalis muscle. Press on it. Is it particularly sensitive, and does the pain radiate with pressure? Jaw clenchers have a much higher contraction of the muscle, even when asleep.

Has anyone put their finger into your mouth, between the upper teeth and the cheek into the pocket high up behind your wisdom tooth, testing the external pterygoid muscle? You can do it yourself. Is it extremely tender with pressure? These may be signs that your pain is coming from the TMJ and not from your ear or sinuses. In which case start looking for someone who works with the jaw joint. Avoid surgery.

It's possible you have a condition called trigeminal neuralgia which is extremely painful and not dissimilar to the symptoms you describe.

I hope this all contributes. Certainly you are an amazing family.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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