As a child I had chronic ear infections. My mother would take me to our primary care physician and I would get prescribed an antibiotic. Eventually the symptoms would subside and I would discontinue the antibiotic treatment. Like clockwork, the ear infection would return as soon as the medication was stopped. Eventually, the medication lost its effectiveness and I had "tubes put in my ears". This method also proved to be ineffective. As a result, I had reoccurring ear infections until about the age of 13. At this time the ear infections ceased due to the more vertical position of my Eustachian tubes. 

Years later, while in chiropractic school I was listening to a lecture by Dr. Dan Murphy about ear infections. He said a number of interesting things that have stuck with me. One of these things is that most ear infections are viral infections causing antibiotics to be very ineffective and do nothing more than disrupt the normal balance of gut flora which leaves the child with a weakened immune system. He also said that chiropractors are best suited to treat ear infections to get a true lasting result and prevent them from returning.

Nearly 100% of children will have an ear infection by age 5. For some, ear infections may develop into a chronic, reoccurring illness. This is very uncomfortable for the child and may result in long term conditions such as balance problems and hearing loss. In additions, millions of dollars are lost each year due to parents missing days at work. 


Otitis media is the medical term for an infection of the middle ear. More often than not, this infection is the result of a virus. This occurs when the child's ears are not able to drain effectively causing the perfect, unsanitary environment for the viral infection to thrive. Children are already at a disadvantage because, at this age, the Eustachian tubes are oriented in a more flat position making it difficult to drain the ears effectively. As we age, the Eustachian tubes become more vertical which results in better drainage of the ears. This is why ear infections are very common in children and very rare in adults. 


Most people can voluntarily make their ears "pop", but few know the mechanism of how they do this. When you do this, you are contracting a tiny muscle called the tensor veli palatini. This muscle is responsible for allowing the Eustachian tubes to open which balances air pressure and allows for mucus buildup to drain into the throat. This muscle is very important our children's health relies on its proper function.

The most common reason for this muscle not functioning properly in children is a misalignment of the top bone in your neck, called the atlas. This misalignment is commonly caused during the birthing process. During the birthing process the child's head is rotated and laterally flexed before applying a tractional force to expose the child's shoulder. This tractional force has been documented anywhere from 20-60 pounds of force! This is more than enough force to misalign the atlas vertebra. This misalignment creates what we would call mechanical disafferentation which is a fancy way of saying an interruption in the signals normally sent to the brain created by motion and movement. When looking at otitis media, the motor nucleus of the fifth cranial nerve is of particular interest as it is the nerve that supplies and controls the tensor veli palatini muscle. Once the normal mechanical movement of the atlas vertebra is restored, proper nerve flow is also restored and allows the tensor veli palatini muscle to function as it should. This allows the ears to drain as needed and significantly reduces the risk of an ear infection. 


All the time I have parents come into the office with a child that has a current, active ear infection. Of course we are able to get positive results, but the pain on the child's part and the missed work days on the parents part could have been avoided by not waiting until the child was sick to seek chiropractic care. Chiropractic care is proactive and preventative which means that we can avoid discomfort and potentially harmful symptoms by ensuring that the nervous system is functioning optimally. 

If you can share one piece of information, share this: 

  • Chiropractic care is very effective with ear infections. 
  • Don't wait to get your child's nervous system checked.