During a cold or another respiratory infection, these tiny tubes can become
inflamed and swollen, trapping fluid in the middle ear.
When viruses or bacteria multiply in the fluid, the result is a painful infection.
Misalignment of vertebrae and/or muscle spasm can press on structures that
drain the middle ear.
Source: Dr. Stu Warner, Parker Seminars, Miami, 2003
Reoccurring ear infections account for over 35% of all pediatrician visits
United States. Sometimes these infections are due to bacteria and sometimes these are due to a virus. The most
common medical care for this situation has been antibiotics, even though antibiotics have no effect on viruses.
Source: Ladies Home Journal, October 1998 "Chiropractic Adjustments for Chronic
Pacifiers Are Linked To Increase In Ear Infections...
Chiropractic Approach to Ear Infections
Ear problems can be excruciatingly painful, especially in children.
With 10 million new cases every year, ear infections (otitis media) are the most common illness affecting babies and young
children and the number one reason for visits to the pediatrician—accounting for more than 35 percent of all pediatric
visits. Almost half of all children will have at least one middle ear infection before they're a year old, and two-thirds
of them will have had at least one such infection by age 3. The symptoms can include ear pain, fever, and irritability. Otitis
media can be either bacterial or viral in origin, and frequently results from another illness such as a cold. For many children,
it can become a chronic problem, requiring treatment year after year, and putting the child at risk of permanent hearing damage
and associated speech and developmental problems.
Standard treatment for most cases of otitis media is with antibiotics, which can be effective if the culprit is bacterial
(antibiotics, of course, do nothing to fight
off viruses). But, according to many research studies, antibiotics are often
much more effective than the body's own immune system. And repeated doses of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant
bacteria that scoff at the drugs, while leaving the child screaming in pain.
Frequent ear infections are also the second most common reason for surgery in children under 2 (with circumcision being
the first). In severe cases—for
example, when fluids from an ear infection haven't cleared from the ear after
months, and hearing is affected—specialists sometimes prescribe
myringotomy and tympanostomy, more commonly known
as "ear tubes."
During the surgical procedure, a small opening is made in the eardrum to place
a tube inside. The tube
relieves pressure in the ear and prevents repeated fluid
buildup with the continuous venting of fresh air. In most cases,
the membrane pushes the tube out after a couple of months and the hole in the eardrum
closes. Although the treatment is
effective, it has to be repeated in some 20 to 30 percent of cases. And this kind of surgery requires general anesthesia,
never a minor thing in a small child. If the infection persists even after tube placement and removal, children sometimes
undergo adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the adenoids)—an option that is effective mostly through the first year after
Before yet another round of "maybe-they'll-work-and-maybe-they-won't"
antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more
parents are considering
chiropractic to help children with chronic ear infections. Dr. Joan Fallon,
who practices in Yonkers, New York, has published research
showing that, after receiving a series of chiropractic adjustments,
percent of the children treated were free of ear infections for at least the six-month period following their
initial visits (a period that also included
maintenance treatments every four to six weeks).
"Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and
subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover more quickly," explains Dr. Fallon. She'd like to see
her pilot study used as a basis for larger-scale trials of chiropractic as a therapeutic modality for otitis media.
Dr. Fallon uses primarily upper-cervical manipulation on children with otitis media, focusing particularly on the occiput,
or back of the skull, and atlas, or the first vertebra in the neck. "Adjusting the occiput, in particular, will get the middle
ear to drain. Depending on how chronic it's been and on where they are in their cycle of antibiotics, children generally need
to get through one bout of fluid and fight it off themselves." That means, for the average child, between six and eight treatments.
If a child's case is acute, Dr. Fallon will check the ear every day, using a tympanogram to measure the ear and track the
movement of the eardrum to make sure that it's draining. "I'll do adjustments every day or every other day for a couple of
days if they're acute, and then decrease frequency over time."
Dr. Fallon, whose research garnered her the acclaim of childrearing magazines like Parenting and Baby Talk, often sees
great success when she treats a child for otitis media. "Once they fight it themselves, my kids tend to do very well and stay
away from ear infections completely. Unless there are environmental factors like smoking in the house, an abnormally shaped
Eustachian tube, or something like that, they do very well," she says. "I have two large pediatric groups that refer to me
on a regular basis. In the winter, when otitis is most prevalent, I see five or six new children each week from each group,"
Dr. Fallon. "It's safe and effective and something that parents should try, certainly before inserting tubes in their
Reference: 2004, American Chiropractic Association
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