Neck Pain Behind Ear

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Neck Pain


pain behind the ear
pain behind the ear

Commonly, my clients describe a neck pain behind the ear as a deep ache, and sometimes as a pain that starts in the ear and runs down the back of the neck. It can be also be described as a sharp pain when your jaw opens. They generally cannot ease it by positioning and movement.

The causes of this type of pain are many, and quite often it can be associated with neck pain, as the tendons of many neck muscles are connected to the base of the skull just behind the ear.

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Causes of neck pain behind ear

The most common causes of this condition that I see are:

  • Muscular pain from the neck muscles that lie behind the ear. There are many muscles in this area and some of the are connected to the skull just behind the ear. When they become tight or weak they may cause neck pain behind your ear.

  • Jaw pain arising from the tempero-mandibular joint (TMJ). This is a complex joint which is often associated with neck pain behind the ear. Correction of its function is usually quite easy with the appropriate manual techniques and TMJ exercises.

  • Joint pain coming from C1/2/3 vertebrae in your neck (see neck anatomy. These spinal segments are located in this area and also refer symptoms to this area. As a result of stiffness or other movement dysfunctions they can present with neck pain behind your ear.

  • Throat problems can refer pain into this area. If you have problem associated with the throat or a sore throat and neck pain, these are beyond the scope of physical therapy, so it is best to seek medical attention immediately and get it checked out.

  • Ear infections - the underlying cause could be a bacterial infection, especially the pain is persistent and sharp, or if it is accompanied by a fever, or swelling behind the ear. Infections are beyond the scope of physical therapy, so you should refer yourself to a Doctor immediately to get it checked out first.

Symptoms, treatment and exercises for neck pain behind the ear

As I mentioned earlier, my clients often describe their pain as a deep ache behind the ear, and sometimes starting in the ear and running down the back of the neck. TMJ type problems are associated sharp pain when your jaw opens.

The treatment of neck pain behind the ear depends on the cause. As with all pains, addressing the cause is the most important aspect in the overall management of your neck pain. If it is coming from the TMJ, the TMJ must be treated. If it is muscular, the muscles must be addressed and if it is from the neck joints, these joints must be treated.

Exercises can help relieve neck pain behind the ear, but again this depends on the underlying cause. Generally, I advise that heat treatment followed by resting your head on an average height neck pillow will help. This should be followed by gently rolling your head and neck from side to side to ease out the area. Repeat 3 times daily and roll your head 5 times each way, each time.

If the symptoms do not ease within 24 hours seek medical help, and if you think the cause may be an infection, attend a Doctor immediately to seek treatment.

To learn more about TMJ Pain (pain in your jaw), click here

To learn more about neck pain, click here

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While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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