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Pediatric Research

Ear Infections and Chiropractic

Ear pain is the number one reason for child visits to chiropractors. Many chiropractors believe that there is a strong link between the birthing process and recurrent ear infection, also known as otitis media. During the birthing process, cervical (neck) vertebrae can become subluxated “misaligned”, disrupting nerve function, which can affect the eustachian tube. This may lead to fluid buildup in the middle ear and cause otitis media.

You’re probably asking yourself, why would a subluxation affect the ear?  It is actually very simple how this happens.  The nerve supply to the tensor veli palatine (tvp) muscle is through the motor fibers (nerve fibers that tell muscles what to do) of the mandibular branch of the trigeminal verve.  These fibers unite to form portions of the superior cervical ganglion located between the C-1 and C-4 nerve roots (located in the upper neck).  Neurological compromise of this muscle by osseous (bone) or soft tissue structures may contribute to the malfunction of the tvp muscle causing inadequate patency (opening) of the tube resulting in the pathological response of otitis media.  

So basically a subluxation in your upper neck can pinch the nerves going to a muscle in your ear that is normally used to help the ear drain.  When this muscle is not working correctly fluid can build up and eventually lead to chronic ear infections.  It's as simple as that!   

Ear infection or otitis media accounts for over 35% of all pediatrician visits in the United States. Antibiotics, the usual treatment, are not always effective and may even lead to a recurrence of ear infections. Many children are dealing with a continuing cycle of repeat ear infections, which lands them back at the pediatrician for more antibiotics. For nearly 100 years, the chiropractic profession has claimed that ear and other upper respiratory infections respond favorably to chiropractic adjustments.

A promising study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics indicates that there is a strong correlation between chiropractic adjustments and the resolution of ear infections. 332 children with chronic ear infections participated in the study. Each child, ranging in age from 27 days to 5 years, was given a series of chiropractic adjustments. The results show that close to 80% of the children did not experience another ear infection within the six-month period following their initial visits. The six-month period included maintenance treatments every four to six weeks. Joan M. Fallon, D.C., the author of the study and the chiropractor who treated the children in the study, states that this pilot study can serve as a starting point from which the chiropractic profession can begin to examine its role in the treatment of children with chronic ear infections. She asserts that large-scale clinical trials need to be undertaken in the field.

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