If your child suffers from chronic ear infections, also called otitis media, you know the heartbreak and frustration of fighting what feels like an uphill battle. With about 35% of all pediatrician visits attributable to otitis media in the United States each year, you're also not alone.
Though some infections of the middle ear will clear on their own, others require treatment in order to resolve. When endless cycles of antibiotics turn into discussion about surgical intervention, many parents look for a different approach. Fortunately, there are research-based solutions available which are non-invasive and drug-free.
Ear Infections 101: Causes and Solutions
Infections in the middle ear can be caused by bacteria or viruses, often leading to painful inflammation and fluid build-up. They're far more common in children than adults, because the eustachian tubes are smaller and still mostly horizontal in orientation. When swelling or blockages make it difficult for fluids to drain, an infection is often the result, because kids' immune systems also aren't as strong as those of adults. This proverbial one-two punch of eustachian tube orientation and an inability to effectively fight off infections means the inner ear is an area remarkably susceptible to painful infections for pediatric patients.
As children get older and the eustachian tubes move to a more favorable angle for drainage, middle ear infections become less common. Until then, parents are left to manage the irritability and pain kids feel as pressure within the ear increases. This can mean antibiotics, which many pediatricians are becoming more judicious about prescribing, a wait-and-see approach as endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics or a wellness solution that includes evidence-based chiropractic care. When given the option to be proactive in seeking relief for toddlers and small children in pain without including the risks of antibiotics and surgery, it’s not surprising so many parents are exploring chiropractic care.
The Chiropractic Approach to Treating Ear Infections
Ear pain is one of the leading causes for child visits to chiropractors in the United States, often as parents become disillusioned with a seemingly endless cycle of antibiotics and recurring earinfections. Among chiropractors, it's a commonly held position that the birthing process itself can be the culprit responsible for recurring earinfections during infancy; misalignment of the vertebrae during birth causing the disruption of healthy nerve function, which in turn may cause fluid buildup in the middle ear due to its effect on the eustachian tube.
This position is backed by a study published in The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapies, which showed that 80% of children who participated in a study did not suffer new ear infections during a six-month period of treatment. While small and somewhat limited, this study does show a clear need for larger clinical trials in this area.
In addition to promising evidence that chiropracticcare can result in good outcomes for children suffering from recurring ear infections, this conservative approach also does not include antibiotics or other drugs. It's painless and non-invasive, as well as low-risk, meaning it offers the potential for long-term relief without the risks associated with overuse of antibiotics or aggressive surgical treatment.