8 Causes and Treatments for Sharp Pain Behind Ear

By Jessica Kelley | Health


Are you experiencing sharp pain behind the ear? If so, you might be wondering what is causing the pain and how you can effectively get rid of it.

Numerous conditions can cause pain behind the ear. According to health experts, pain behind the ear can travel to other parts of the body like the neck, shoulders, arms and head.

Also, pain behind the ear can be worrisome for most people because the ears are quite close to the brain.

The pain can mean a lot of things, and it is best to get it checked to understand better its cause and the most appropriate course of treatment you should take.

Possible Causes for Sharp Pain Behind the Ear

It is important to accurately diagnose and treat pain behind the ear as it can progress to something more severe and dangerous if left untreated.

Here is a list of the ten most common causes of pain behind the ear and their treatments.

1. Otitis Media

Via Wikipedia

Otitis media is also referred to as an ear infection, which affects both children and adults. This condition is described as any inflammation or infection affecting the middle ear.

In most cases, the condition will resolve on its own. However, treatment often focuses on the monitoring of the condition ensuring that it does not become worse.

Pain medications and antibiotics may be prescribed for severe cases.

2. Mastoiditis


Mastoiditis is a condition characterized by an infection of the mastoid bone. The mastoid bone is located just behind the ear. It is a honeycomb-like structure that can fill up with infected material, causing it to break down.

The symptoms of mastoiditis include drainage from the ear, fever, ear pain, hearing loss, headaches, redness behind the ear, and swelling behind the ear.

The treatment includes antibiotics and eardrops. However, for severe cases, surgery to remove part of the bone and drain the mastoid may be required.

3. Swimmer’s Ear

Via http://www.mayoclinic.org

Swimmer’s ear also referred to acute otitis externa, is a condition that affects the outer ear.

This condition is often painful and results from infection, irritation, or inflammation. This condition occurs when water gets trapped in the ear allowing the spread of bacteria.

Sharp pain behind the ears caused by this condition is often treated with over the counter pain medications and eardrops.

 Immediate medical consult, however, is indicated to prevent the condition from becoming severe once the symptoms are felt.

4. Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)

Via https://www.mdguidelines.com

Temporomandibular joint connects the jawbone to the skull and acts as a sliding hinge. There is one joint located on each side of the jaw.

Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ can cause pain behind the ears, on the jaw joint and in the muscles which control the movement of the jaw.

 The reason for the condition may be due to the combination of several factors like arthritis, injury, and genetics.

In some cases, the symptoms of the condition may resolve on its own. However, if it does not resolve, your health care provider may prescribe muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and pain relievers.

Surgery may be indicated to repair or replace the joint in severe cases.

5. Ceruminosis

Via wikimedia.org

This condition is referred to as the excessive build up of earwax in the ear canal.

The symptoms of the condition include itching in the ear, muffled hearing, dizziness, cough, and sharp pain behind the ear.

This condition occurs if the ear canal is too narrow or when excessive earwax is produced. Also, this condition may occur if the ear wax is pushed further inside the ear when ear buds are used.

The treatment involves the removal of the impacted earwax through the utilization of a suction device. A softening agent may be used to remove the earwax.

6. Swollen Lymph Nodes

When the lymph nodes behind the ear become swollen, it can cause pain behind the ear.

Lymph nodes are little bean-shaped glands that are located in different parts of the body.

 These nodes are part of the lymphatic system that carries lymph fluid, nutrients and waste materials between the blood stream and body tissues.

The lymph nodes on the neck, under the jaw, and behind the ears can become inflamed when a person has a cold or a sore throat. Also, these lymph nodes can also swell following an injury around the area of its location.

The treatment for this condition often focuses on the treating the cause. For instance, if the condition is caused by bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics.

7. Oral and Dental Problems

Sharp pain behind the ear may also be caused by oral problems like a tooth infection or abscess. When you have an infected tooth, the lymph nodes at the back of the ears can become inflamed.

The treatment for this condition often includes management of a toothache with over the counter pain medications. Antibiotics may also be prescribed along with the removal of the infected tooth.

Different types of headaches can cause sharp pain behind the ears.

An icepick headache, which is associated with a stabbing pain occurring on the eye area, can cause intense pain behind the ear that lasts only for a few seconds. Hemicrania continua is a one-sided headache that affects the ear.

Other types of a headache that cause pain behind the ear include a cervicogenic headache and occipital neuralgia. A cervicogenic headache is caused by a dysfunction of the joints and muscles around the upper cervical spine.

On the other hand, occipital neuralgia is characterized by throbbing or piercing pain in the upper back, behind the ears, and at the back of the head.


Treatment for the condition often varies depending on the type of a headache causing the pain behind the ears. The treatment may include massage, rest, pain medications, antidepressants, local nerve blocks, and steroids.

But most importantly, ask your doctor for the best medical and physical therapy.


Since sharp pain behind has various causes, it is vital to have a proper diagnosis to determine the underlying cause of the pain.

Medical consult must be sought so your doctor can properly diagnose and formulate the right treatment plan specific for your condition.

Take Good Care of Your Ears is The Best Prevention

Via Livingiswwellmindness.com


About the Author

I am Jessica, co-founder of CareHappiness.com. We work to inspire, educate and empower our readers with all the latest updates and authentic information. Our goal is to bring up the “Healthy attitude” among people in the world. On CareHappiness.com you will find high-quality health information, fitness tips, diet charts and answer to all your health queries.

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