COUNTLESS CHILDREN wake at night because of intense ear pain. The probable cause is acute otitis media (infection of the middle ear). This condition is often accompanied by fever and fluid discharge from the ear. It can frighten parents.
During an upper respiratory infection, microorganisms can sometimes infiltrate the ear. The tissue swells, blocking openings within the ear and inhibiting fluid drainage through the Eustachian tube. As a result, inflammation occurs. The lack of drainage is worsened by the horizontal orientation of an infant's Eustachian tubes. (They gradually assume a 45-degree angle as children mature.)
The most common treatments for ear infections in children are antibiotics, oral decongestants, and surgical placement of tubes in the ears. The benefits of every one of these treatments are questionable.
For example, in a double-blind study published in The Lancet, 171 children with acute otitis media (AOM) were divided into 4 groups: one group was treated with surgery, one was given antibiotics, one was given both surgery and antibiotics, and one group received no treatment at all. Recovery time was reported to be about the same for all the children, regardless of treatment. Another medical study published in the Archives of Otolarvngologv showed that "88% of patients with AOM never need antibiotics ...In those treated with antibiotics, risk of recurrence is
high ...antibiotics does not imply shortening of the disease."
These results reflect the fact that many "ear infections" involve bacteria-free fluid accumulation owing to the blocked Eustachian tubes. The condition can be painful, but will not respond to antibiotics.
When antibiotics fail to halt the "infection," surgery to insert tubes is considered. However, research indicates that this surgery is often futile; it can actually lead to complications such as scarring and permanent perforation. Researchers at the Department of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted a study of the medical appropriateness of ear tubes. Altogether, 6611 children under the age of 16 were included in the study. In all cases, their doctors had recommended ear tubes. However, an expert panel concluded that only 41% of the subjects met appropriate criteria for ear-tube insertion.
If invasive medical treatment isn't the solution to this childhood affliction, what is?
Doctors of chiropractic have developed tremendously safe and successful methods that work. As a result, parents are asking their chiropractors to co-manage their children's ear infections and are choosing chiropractic as their first line of defense for preventing future episodes.
Eustachian tube blockage can occur when a tiny muscle called the tensor veil palatini becomes dysfunctional. Nerves that can be traced back to the spinal cord in the upper neck innervate this muscle. Dysfunctional areas of the spine called spinal subluxations may interfere with nerve flow to this muscle. Doctors of chiropractic go to the root of the problem by removing spinal subluxations with chiropractic adjustments. Many chiropractors take specialized courses on pediatric adjusting techniques and use extremely safe, gentle and low-force methods for children. By correcting subluxations, proper nerve flow to the tensor veil palatini muscle will be facilitated, allowing the Eustachian tubes to drain and preventing future episodes of AOM.
One study looked at 41 children under the age of 5 with ear infections. A full 93% recovered within 10 days of the start of chiropractic care (up to 5 treatments during that time). Among these, 43% improved after only 1 or 2 treatments. Another study followed children who had failed to recover after 6 months of medical care. Al1 the children improved with no more than 5 visits to the chiropractor.
Consider a chiropractic spinal check-up. This check-up can make a huge difference. Keeping our child's spine free from subluxations will help your child's natural defenses against disease, which in turn helps to avoid drugs with all their side effects.
Chiropractic care involves diagnosing spinal misalignments and correcting them by using the hands to manipulate, or adjust, the spine. With children, chiropractors typically use a slight pressure rather than the slightly more forceful manipulations used on adults.
Misalignments in kids, chiropractors say can occur during childbirth and from normal activity. If left untreated, they contend, these misalignments (also called subluxations) irritate nerves and eventually disrupt the body's ability to function properly. But while scoliosis and sports injuries account for some visits, ear pain is the number one reason that kids see chiropractors, according to the International Chiropractors Association (ICA) pediatrics council.
Many of these practitioners believe there's a strong link between the birthing process and recurrent middle-ear infections, also known as acute otitis media.
During childbirth when the head pushes through the birth canal, chiropractors say, the cervical vertebrae, at the base of the head and upper-neck area, often become misaligned, disrupting nerve function in this region.
A chiropractic adjustment stretches the soft tissue around the ear canal, they maintain, ultimately allowing fluid to drain and thereby reducing the buildup of bacteria and risk of infection.
Treatment fees vary depending on where you live. Many health insurance companies cover the costs. Keep in mind that you often see some improvement in your child's condition within the first four or five adjustments; we have helped hundreds of children recover naturally from ear infection often with no reoccurrence. Before you put toxic drugs, pills, and potions into your child or attempt the radical surgery of ear tubes, try the natural alternative. You will be amazed at the result.
Earache is a very common childhood problem. In his book Childhood Ear Infections1, Dr. Michael A. Schmidt states that middle ear inflammation is the number one childhood problem in America, accounting for approximately one-third of all pediatric visits. He goes on to say that by age three, more than two-thirds of all children have one or more episodes of acute otitis media (middle ear inflammation). What can chiropractic care do for this common problem?
The Medical Approach
The usual medical treatment for a child’s earache is a prescription of antibiotics, but despite the vast increase in their use, the incidence of middle ear infections has been rising sharply. It seems that the use of antibiotics not only does not shorten the duration of the disease, but leads to resistant strains of bacteria, super-infection and allergic reactions. Recurrences of earaches in children may be due, in part, to how they are commonly treated. The Doctor’s People, a popular consumer medical newsletter, states:
“Giving the child aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to ease the discomfort actually may lead to more infection, which in turn may take longer to heal. If Cortisone is used (in a nasal spray, for instance), the child’s supply of zinc may be depleted, and he’ll be less capable of fighting off future infections.”2
More and more medical authorities are pointing out the dangers of the drug approach to childhood infection.
The Surgical Approach
The pain of a child with an earache is certainly apparent, and any adult who remembers such problems will attest to the fact.
Actually, there is a fluid build-up in the middle ear which creates pressure and pain. Tympanostomy, the procedure or puncturing the eardrum and placing a tube in the ear, is often prescribed as a last-resort measure for chronic earaches. However, this procedure is wrought with many risks and side effects. In his book, Dr. Mendelssohn, a prominent pediatrician, wrote:
“Controlled studies have shown that when both ears are infected, and a tube is inserted in only one of them, the outcome for both ears is almost identical. Meanwhile, the procedure itself carries many risks and side effects. Justified as a means of preventing hearing loss, tympanostomy can cause scarring and hardening of the eardrum, with resulting hearing loss. Incredibly, one of the side effects of this procedure, performed to cure recurrent otitis media, is acute otitis media.” 3
Yes, this surgical procedure has many problems and often creates more of that which it was intended to cure. “So what’s a mother to do?”
The Chiropractic Approach
First of all, let us recognize that the problem is not just an infection. Sometimes there is no infection at all; the problem is really internal malfunction. Something is not functioning correctly in the child’s body, allowing for a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. The chiropractic opinion is that the nerve supply to the middle ear is disturbed by misalignments (subluxations) of the upper cervical vertebrae in the child’s spine. This in turn may interfere with the child’s lymphatic drainage system and lead to a build-up of pressure and resultant infection.
Most people realize that a child’s neck is very vulnerable to jolts and jars and, especially with infants, we must always be on guard to prevent injury to this area of the spine. Recent research in Germany has shown that the nerve interference in the neck can lead to children having a lower resistance to infection, especially ear, nose and throat infections. Dr. Gutman stated:
“Blocked nerve impulses at the atlas cause many clinical features from central motor impairment to lower resistance to infections.” 4
Subluxations of the cervical spine, especially the atlas (the very top of the vertebrae), can lead to lowered tissue resistance and infection.
Chiropractors have always directed their concern to cause. Where medicine seeks to control the infection, chiropractic asks “Why?” Why does one child in the family have the problem and not the others? Why is it commonly in one ear and not the other? The answer to these and many other problems is found in nerve interference in the spine. Chiropractic patients across the nation can attest to the effectiveness of chiropractic care in many conditions that defy conventional medical treatment.
Remember, too, that when undergoing chiropractic care for persistent and chronic problems, you must give nature time to heal. Chiropractic spinal adjustments endeavor to restore proper nerve supply. Once restored, the body must then respond, build up its own resistance and restore its own normal function. When accomplished, healing takes place. Going to a chiropractor is not like popping a pill; it is no quick fix. Rather, it is a restoration of proper function which leads to health. So if your child suffers from ear infection, why not consider the drugless, bloodless methods of chiropractic care.
Chiropractic care goes well beyond the effectiveness alleviation of backaches. Consider our natural alternative to health problems; the results are often very gratifying.
1. “Childhood Ear Infections,” North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA
2. “The Doctor’s People,” A Medical Newsletter for Consumers, Vol. 4, #1, January, 1991.
3. “How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor,” Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D.
4. Blocked Atlantal Nerve Syndrome, Gutmann, I.C.A. Review