Pain Behind Ear Causes: and Down Neck, Base of Skull, Bone, Earlobe, Throbbing, Stabbing, Get Rid

Truth that the ears are so close to the brain makes any kind of discomfort or sharp pain behind ear quite worrisome. That sharp pain from ears could a reason of things and you need to get it checked to understand which kind of pain it is. For instant, if the problem is associated with fever, then it could be an ear infection which needs to be immediately treated in order to prevent the infection from getting worse.

Pain behind Ear Meaning

The nerves that supply the area behind the ear are complicated and involves 5th (auriculotemporal), 7th (facial), 9th (glossopharyngeal) and 10th (vagus) cranial nerves. The area behind the ear is mostly from the C2 and C3 nerves, so diseases of the upper part of neck and spinal cord can produce symptoms here.
In patients who attend me, pain referred from the cervical spine is by far the most common cause. For instant, pain in the ear can come from almost anywhere in the head or neck. The 10th cranial nerve supplies the back (posterior) half of the external ear canal – the bit that is open to the outside.
Pain behind ear that is neurological in origin, is often intermittent and shooting – called neuralgic pain. If a nerve has been more permanently damaged, neuropathic pain can be burning or cold and often has a creepy or itchy quality to it.

Pain behind Ear Causes

The best thing to do in case you have a pain behind ear is to diagnose and treat the condition in order to ensure it doesn’t progress to something more severe and dangerous. Following is a list of some common causes and respective treatments of pain behind ears:
Otitis Media
This virus or bacteria ear infection that affects the air-filled space behind the eardrum containing the tiny vibrating bones. This condition is more common in children and can lead to sharp pain behind ear due to the accumulation of fluids and inflammation in the middle ear.
Treatment: The condition gets resolved on its own. However, the treatment for otitis media involves monitoring the condition to ensure it doesn’t get worse and to manage pain if it gets unbearable. The doctor might prescribe antibiotics for severe cases as leaving it untreated could cause complications.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
These problems are another cause of sharp pain that emanates behind the ear. The temporomandibular joint is the joint located at the jaw which connects the temporal bone to the lower jawbone. These disorders are caused by jaw injury, whiplash injury or bruise.
In some cases, the symptoms of this condition may disappear without treatment. But if your symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend some medications such as pain relievers, tricyclic antidepressants or muscle relaxants and therapies or surgery to repair or replace the joint.
The condition where there is excessive build-up of earwax in the ear canal is referred to as ceruminosis. It can cause shooting pain behind ear, itching in the ear and muffled hearing. It is caused by the excessive production of ear wax in your ears by the glands. Wax can also accumulate in the ear causing ceruminosis if the ear canal is too narrow.
There are also some cases where you might cause the condition by pushing ear wax deeper into the ear when using ear buds.
The treatment mainly involve the removal of ear wax. A wax softening agent and special instruments such as cerumen spoon, suction device or forceps can be used to remove the ear wax. The removal should be done only by a doctor or a health care provider.
Blocked Eustachian Tube
That shooting pain behind your ear in the neck could be as a result of a blocked Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube can block due to flu, a cold, allergies, sinus infection or changes in pressure when flying or climbing a mountain. Sudden changes in altitude can cause ear barotrauma which has the same effect as a blocked Eustachian tube.
This condition often gets better on its own.  A simple exercise can help to open the blocked tubes: close your mouth and hold your nose with hands, then gently blow your nose. Chewing gum and yawning also help.

Mastoid bone, located behind the ear, is made up of air spaces functioning as drainage for the middle ear. Mastoiditis occurs when a bacterial infection affecting the mastoid bone or the middle ear, or when a skin cyst at the centre of the ear blocks drainage. Symptoms associated with Mastoiditis include swollen ear lobe, lethargy, irritability, fever, redness or tenderness behind ear, bulging of the ear and drainage.
The doctor will prescribe antibiotics and eardrops, and will schedule ear clean-up regularly. For severe cases, a surgical procedure may be required.
Swimmer’s Ear
As the name suggests, this problem is mostly caused by the remaining water in the ears after taking a swim. It affects the outer canal of the ear that connects the outside of the head and the eardrum. This condition can also be caused by damaging of the thin-layered skin lining the ear canal. The lining can be damaged by putting fingers or other objects like cotton swabs in the ear.
Sharp pain caused by this condition is treated with eardrops and OTC pain relievers, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, may be recommended. Immediate medical help is needed in order to prevent deterioration.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are small glands located at the back of the ears, groin area and armpits. They usually swell due to viruses, inflammation, infection or even cancer.
Treatment: If the swelling is caused by infections, doctor will prescribe antibiotics. But a proper diagnosis is required to find the underlying cause of the swelling in order to eliminate the chances of any serious conditions. In any cases lymph nodes heal on their own as the underlying sickness go away
Oral Problem
Sharp pain behind ear cam as well be caused by a tooth infection or a tooth abscess as they cause the lymphatic glands to swell up.
Treatment: In order to treat the earache you will first need to treat the toothache. You can use medication to relieve pain for the time being, but you will need to visit a dentist as soon as possible to get the tooth checked out. Mouth rinses with warm salt-water are also helpful in temporarily relieving the symptoms.
Because the ear is located so close to the brain, it is quite common for the pain from the head to seep its way to the ears, but the causes are not always the same. Following are some common causes of headaches that are also associated with pain behind ear:

  • Ice-Pick Headache: This stabbing pain, although associated with the eyes, can also occur behind the ear too and only last for a very short time. There is also a variant of the pain, referred to as the epicrania fugax that only lasts for a split second and takes a zigzag pattern through the head.
  • Hemicranias Continua: This is a one-sided headache that can affect its counterpart ear and is often relieved with the help of strong-anti-inflammatory drugs like Indomethacin. It is a chronic pain that usually occurs on a regular basis. In most cases, no underlying cause is identified.
  • Cold-stimulus Headache, also known as ice-cream headache
  • Cervicogenic Headache
  • Primary Yawning Headache
  • Headache After Acoustic Neuroma Surgery
  • Nummular Headache
  • Sudden Unilateral Neuralgiform headache with Conjunctival injection

Bell’s palsy
This is paralysis of the facial nerve associated with herpes virus reactivation. Pain behind ear is typical and can precede paralysis by a day or so. Sometimes the pain is very prominent and the facial weakness is mild. Facial paralysis and severe ear pain usually means that there is Herpes Zoster of the geniculate ganglion, called Ramsay-Hunt syndrome. There is a shingles rash in the ear canal.
Treatment: Antivirals and steroids can be given for Bell’s palsy and Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome. There are a couple of cases reported of pain behind the ear at the time of the menstrual period in women with previous Bell’s palsy.
Greater Auricular Neuralgia
This term has been used to describe pain in the territory of the greater auricular nerve, that is, pain behind the ear and below the ear. However, this territory matches the C2 territory and distinguishing this from ordinary cervicogenic headache can be difficult.
Treatment; this can be carried out by use of standard neuropathic pain preparations like Gabapentin.
Carotid Artery Dissection
Pain from the Carotid artery (one of the main arteries in the neck) can result to pain behind the ear over the mastoid bone. One series of 21 cases found that 3 people had mostly ear pains as a cause of their symptoms. Usually the pain of carotid artery dissection is a sudden onset pain, and can follow neck trauma.
Pain during Carotid Artery Angioplasty
One series identified ear pain in 3 out of 49 people undergoing an angioplasty procedure to the carotid artery.
Angina or Heart Attack
There are cases of pain behind ear as the only symptom of heart disease.  However, this pain is usually located in front of the ear, not behind the ear.  Heart disease presenting as ear pain is sometimes called ‘Cardiac Otalgia’.
As the most common cause of pain behind the ear is a neck-related problem, you should consider looking at what you can do to sort out your pain. Pain in or around the ear can be difficult to diagnose, as the nerve supply of the ear is complicated.

Pain behind Ear and Down Neck

A number of conditions can cause pain behind the ear and down the neck. According researchers, neck pain can travel to other parts of the body, such as the shoulder, arm and head. In some cases, pain in various head structures can send pain to the neck. Pain behind the ear is often associated with neck pain, as the tendons of many neck muscles insert into the mastoid process, a prominent bony bump just behind the ear.

Common causes of pain behind ear and down neck

Cervicogenic Headache
A cervicogenic headache or cervical headache, can cause pain behind the ear and down the neck. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by dysfunction in the muscles, joints, nerves or fascia in and around the cervical spine or neck, especially the upper cervical spine. Pain radiates from the neck and the back of the skull toward the front of the skull, causing a dull, aching sensation throughout the head, including behind the ears.
Possible causes of cervicogenic headache include:

  • Nerve compression between the vertebrae or spinal bones
  • Excessive tenderness in the neck tissues due to trigger points–hyper-irritable nodules or knots within a tight band of muscle
  • Reduced neck range of motion or a stiff neck.

Most cervicogenic headaches respond well to conservative care methods, such as chiropractic manipulation, massage therapy, acupuncture and postural retraining exercises.
Mastoiditis conditions
Mastoiditis can cause pain behind ear and down the neck as well. MedlinePlus states that Mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone of the skull, which is located directly behind the pinna or the outside portion of the ear. The most common cause of Mastoiditis is a middle ear infection, also known as acute otitis media.
The infection can spread from the ear to the mastoid bone, causing infected materials to accumulate within the mastoid air cells like structures within the mastoid bone. Infection of the mastoid air cells can cause destruction and degeneration of the bony tissue that composes this part of the skull.
Mastoiditis affects children more than adults. Common signs and symptoms associated with Mastoiditis include:

  • Head and neck discomfort,
  • pain and swelling behind the ear,
  • ear drainage,
  • fever, headache,
  • Hearing loss and redness over the affected area.

This condition can cause pain behind the ear and down the neck too. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, whiplash is a collection of symptoms that occur following a rapid flexion and extension injury of the neck. The most common cause of whiplash is a rear-end motor vehicle accident.
Whiplash symptoms range from mild to severe. Moderate or severe cases usually involve extensive soft tissue damage to various neck structures, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerve roots–spinal cord offshoots.
Common signs and symptoms associated with whiplash include:

  • neck pain and stiffness,
  • pain behind ears,
  • neck muscle strains, neck ligament sprains,
  • headache, dizziness, shoulder pain, back pain, memory loss, an inability to concentrate, irritability, fatigue, sleeping problems and depression.

The NINDS states that, although most people who suffer a whiplash injury recover within three months, some people may experience residual symptoms that last much longer.

Pain behind Base of Skull

Occipital neuralgia is a condition in which the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp, called the occipital nerves, are inflamed or injured. You might feel pain in the back of your head or the base of your skull if you have this problem.
Most people can confuse this condition with a migraine or other types of headaches, because the symptoms can be similar. But treatments for those conditions are very different, so it’s important to see your doctor to get the right diagnosis.
These can range from intense pain that feels like a sharp, jabbing, electric shock in the back of the head and neck. Other symptoms include:

  • Aching, burning, and throbbing pain that typically starts at the base of the head and goes to the scalp
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain when you move your neckBottom of Form

Pain on Bone behind Ear

Mastoiditis usually is a bacterial infection of the mastoid bone. The mastoid bone, which sits behind the ear, consists of air spaces that help drain the middle ear. When the mastoid cells become infected or inflamed, often as a result of an unresolved middle ear infection, mastoiditis can develop.
In acute mastoiditis, infection may spread outside of the mastoid bone and cause serious health complications. Mastoiditis typically affects children, but adults can also be affected.
Some people have chronic mastoiditis, an ongoing infection of the middle ear and mastoid that causes persistent drainage from the ear.

Stabbing Pain behind Earlobe

If you have ever felt a sharp stinging pain in and around your earlobe, it is better you know it could be a sign of an underlying ailment. If the pain is accompanied by fever, it could be a serious ear infection. You may have to undergo several tests depending on the severity of the pain and how long you have had it. This is the only way to determine the underlying cause.
It is also important to watch out for the accompanying symptoms that may be a sign of a serious infection. It is also important to get immediate medical attention. This will prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body. The fact that the ears are so close to the brain makes the sharp pain behind ear very dangerous.

How to Get Rid of Throbbing Pain behind Ear

When it comes to ear, they are sensitive and one of the delicate part of the body. Any infection or underlying condition can cause a lot of pain. A throbbing ear is one of the first few symptoms of an infection. The pain may worsen when you touch your ear, and this could be due to the presence of excess fluids in the ear.
What causes of a throbbing ear pain
The easiest way to get rid of your pain behind ear is by finding the source of the problem. The pain could be due to fluid behind the eardrum, wax build up, inner ear infection, or pulsating tinnitus.
Many at times, earaches or throbbing is experienced is when fluid collects in your ear and causes imbalance. While the use of ear buds or Q-tips is controversial, make sure you visit a doctor for regular cleaning of the wax. A build-up of wax could not only lead to pain and throbbing but also may worsen into an infection.
If you have an inner ear infection, there will considerable pain, and the throbbing will be felt deep inside your ear. The inner ear is a small area, and so swelling of blood vessels and nerves due to infections causes the throbbing sensation. A doctor can treat this condition with antibiotics.
Pulsating tinnitus is a very irritating condition where you can hear your ears ringing or the sound of your heartbeat. The throbbing pulse in the ear is due to the blood flow. This mostly occurs when there is a swollen or damaged tissue in the Eustachian tube located behind the eardrum.
How to relieve a throbbing pain behind ear
At the first sign of ear pain, make sure you go to a doctor; the earlier you get the required treatment, the better it will be for you. Getting treatment for a throbbing ear and pain from a doctor is advisable as you could worsen the condition by trying to cure it by yourself.
To add on that, there are numerous home remedies that you could try out. This may include the following:

  • Increase your Vitamin C intake as it helps in building your immune system and to fight infections off better. Include vitamin C-rich foods like oranges and other citrus fruits in your diet.
  • You can use some oils like mustard and olive oil that help with soothing the pain and to soften the wax, but be careful when using these oils as ear drops.
  • A warm pack of water placed over your ear could give you some much needed relief.
  • Ginger and garlic juice are also known to be good pain relievers.
  • If you are unsure of the safety of home remedies consult your doctor who will recommend what is suitable for your ear.

More references

  1. Sharp pain behind your ears:
  2. What causes pain on the back of the ears:
  3. Pain behind the ear:
  4. Causes of pain behind ear and down the neck:
  5. Occipital neuralgia: