March 21, 2021

Cervical Spine Causes of Ear Pain

There are many possible causes of pain in or around the ear although most patients and even physicians can think of only a few causes, most of which being some type of ear specific problem. However, a not uncommon cause of ear pain is actually due to a pinched nerve in the cervical spine (cervicogenic otalgia).

When it comes to a pinched nerve of the cervical spine causing ear pain, the culprit level can be determined by the pain distribution. Take a look at the pictures. Each color corresponds to a specific nerve involvement, but the key point is that cervical levels C2-5 is responsible for pain in these regions. 

Other hints that point towards a cervical spine etiology include presence of posterior neck pain, increased pain with head movement, pain that is worst during the night and may even wake from sleep, pain worst first thing in the morning, and/or pain that can be triggered by pressing along the cervical spine. Keep in mind that absence of these symptoms do not rule-out cervicogenic ear pain.

The best doctor to see if this fits your ear pain symptoms is a neurologist or cervical spine specialist. 

Read more about other non-ear causes of ear pain! Or watch a video instead.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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