Printable PDF Button

Chiropractic and Ear Infections

Written by Dr. Ari Cohn DC


Ear infections are one of the most common health problems that children suffer from today. (1-3) The medical approach to dealing with this health problem include; administration of antibiotics, myringotomy and tympanostomy all of which have been shown to have limited success in helping with these type of infections. (1,4,5)

Antibiotic intervention is the number one treatment for this condition. (3) Antibiotics are used in approximately 97.9% cases of ear infections and are actually needed in no more than 5-10% of the cases. (10) Unfortunately, it has become common practice for physicians to administer antibiotics for most types of otitis media (ear infections) despite lack of definitive diagnosis. (3,6-9) An independent federally sponsored panel stated that most children do not require antibiotics or surgery for ear infections. (4) This panel stated that the data does not support the effectiveness of either intervention. (4) The overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to many problems including, weakening of the immune system, contributing to the increase in resistant strains of bacteria and destruction of the natural microbial flora in the intestines (which normally aid in the digestion of food). (1,3,11-15)

Other common medical interventions include myringotomy and tympanostomy (cutting of the ear drum and insertion of a drainage tube). (1,4,5) These procedures have also been evaluated further and have been shown to be unsafe and ineffective. (4,5,1624) These common intervention have been shown to be unnecessary in 27-32% of the procedures performed. (23) Side effects of these surgical procedures included cholesteatoma (overgrowth of skin in inner ear), persistent tympanic membrane perforation, tympanosclerosis (scarring of the ear drum), and up to 25% of tympanostomy tube patients have total hearing loss 7-10 years later. (16-22,25) Use of these surgical techniques in children does not provide a guarantee that they will not have a recurrence of the infection. (26,27) In fact, 98% of children undergoing these procedures have a recurrence of effusions within 2 months. (26,27) The reason that such procedures are implemented is to prevent complications such as mastoiditis, a serious infection in the skull. (28) The incidence of mastoiditis in patients treated with antibiotics for otitis media is very low; however, the incidence of mastioditis for patients not treated with antibiotics is also very low. (29,30) Similarly in both cases the incidence of mastioditis is approximately .2-2%. (29,30)

Parents are finally realizing that many commonly accepted medical treatments are ineffective and dangerous so they are looking for alternatives. (12) The most common alternative that parents are using with all ear, nose and throat conditions is chiropractic care. (31) Chiropractic adjustments are a safe and effective way to improve how the whole body functions and reacts to the environment. (32,33) The constant drainage of fluids and exudates in the middle ear by the Eustachian tube is crucial for middle ear health and by normalizing the functioning of the Eustachian tube and the immune system, chiropractic helps the body clear up infections safely and quickly. (15,34) Constant draining of the Eustachian tube is dependant upon the salpingopharyngeus and tensor veli palantini muscles. (15,34) These muscles are controlled by cranial nerve V, which is in turn dependant on the proper movement and alignment of the occiput and upper cervical vertebrae due to the fact that the nucleus of this nerve extends down into the upper cervical spine. (15,34)

Many studies have shown that chiropractic care is beneficial for children. (1,15,35) These studies further demonstrate that there is a strong correlation between chiropractic adjustments and the resolution of ear infections. (1,15,16,35)

Parents may wonder why their child would have disturbances in his nervous system (subluxations) and need chiropractic care. Subluxations can be caused by the overload of physical, emotional and chemical stress (any environmental factor that causes the body to go out of equilibrium). (33) A child's need for chiropractic care may be traceable as far back in life as the birth event. (37) Even during a normal birth there is an enormous amount physical stress put on the baby's neck and may cause subluxations (malpositions of spinal bones causing interference in the nervous system) of the occipital bone and upper cervical spine (neck). (1,3,36,38) When the baby is born the mother is no longer acting as an environmental filter for the baby and now the baby has to deal with a vast number of new chemical stresses on his own. (37) These factors can cause subluxations that can inhibit the function of the Eustachian tube many other crucial functions. (1,3,36,38)

For more research on Chiropractic and ear infections visit the ICPA.

  • 1. Fallon J. The role of chiropractic adjustment in the car and treatment of 332 children with otitis media. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics 1997; 2(2):167-183.
  • 2. Crouteau N, Trends in medical visits and surgery for otitis media among children. Am J Dis Child 1990;144:535-538.
  • 3. Lamm L, Ginter L. Otitis media: A conservative chiropractic management protocol. Top Clin Chiro 1998;5(1):18-28.
  • 4. Berman S, Roark R. Factor influencing outcome in children treated with antibiotics for acute otitis media. Pediatr Infec Dis J 1993:12:20-24.
  • 5. Casselbrant ML, Kaleida PH, Rockette HE, et al. Efficacy of antimicrobial prophylaxis and of tympanostomy tube insertion for prevention of recurrent acute otitis media: Results of a randomized clinical trial. Pediatr Infec Dis J 1992;11:278-286.
  • 6. Berkow R, ed. The Merck Manual. 16th ed. Rahway, NJ :Merck, Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories; 1996.
  • 7. Eden AN, Fireman P, Stool S. Otitis media with effusion: sorting out the options. Patient Care. 1995;15:52-56.
  • 8. Ostfeld E, Segal J, KaufsteinM, Gelernter I. Management of acute otitis media without primary administration of systemic antimicrobial agents. Recent Advances in Otitis Media: Proceedings of the Fourth International symposium. Philadelphia, PA: BC Decker 1987.
  • 9. Rosenfeld RM, Post JC. Meta-analysis of antibiotics for the treatment of otitis media with effusion. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1992;106:378-386.
  • 10. Lehnert T. Acute otitis media in children: role of antibiotic therapy. Canadian Family Physician 1996.
  • 11. Levy D. Overuse of antibiotics real threat. USA today, 1996
  • 12. Children's ear infections soar. Health watch. 1998.
  • 13. Bluestone CD. Eustachian tube obstruction in the infant with cleft palate. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1071;80:1-30.
  • 14. Paradise JL, Bluestone CD, Felder H. The universality of otitis media in fifty infants with cleft palate. Pediatrics 1969;44:35-42
  • 15. Froehle R. Ear infection: A retrospective study examining improvement from chiropractic care and analyzing for influencing factors. J Manip Physiol Ther 1996; 19(3):169-176.
  • 16. Sawyer C, Evans R, Boline P, Branson R, Spicer A. A feasibility study of chiropractic spinal manipulation versus sham spinal manipulation for chronic otitis media with effusion in children. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1999;22(5):292-298.
  • 17. Kilby D, Richards SH, Hart G. Grommets and glue ears: two year results. J laryngol otol 1972;86:881-888.
  • 18. Balkany TJ, Arnberg IK, Steenerson RL. Ventilation tube surgery and middle ear irrigation. Laryngoscope 1986;96:529-32.
  • 19. Gates GA, Avery C, Prihoda TJ, Holt GR. Delayed onset post-tympanostomy otorrhea. Otolaryngol Head and Neck Surg 1988;98:111-115.
  • 20. Gates GA, Avery C, Prihoda TJ, Holt GR. Post-tympanostomy otorrhea. Laryngoscope 1986:96:630-634.
  • 21. Maw AR. Development of tympanosclerosis in children with otitis media with effusion and ventilation tubes. J Laryngol Otol 1991;105:614-617.
  • 22. Lidhholdt T. Ventilation tubes in secretory otits media. A randomized, controlled study of the course, the complications, and the sequelae of ventilation tubes. Acta Oto-Laryngologoica 1983;398(Supp1):1-28.
  • 23. Kleinman LC, Kosecoff J, Dubois RW, Brook RH. The medical appropriateness of tympanostomy tubes proposed for children younger than 16 years in the United States. JAMA 1994; 271:12501255.
  • 24. VanBuchem FL, Dunk JHM, Van'T H. Therapy of acute otitis media: myringotomy, antibiotics or neither? Lancet 1981:oct 24, 883-887.
  • 25. Stangerup SE, Tos M. Etiologic role of suppurative otitis media in chronic secretory otitis. Am J Otol 1985;6:126-131.
  • 26. Van Cauwenberg P. The long term results of the treatment with transtympanic ventilation tubes in children with chronic secretory otitis media. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngnol 1979:109-116.
  • 27. Mackeinnon KM. The sequel to myringotomy for exudative otitis media. J Laryngol Otol 1971; 85:773-794.
  • 28. Schwartz RH, Rodriguez UJ, Schwartz DM. Office myringotomy for acute otitis media: its value in preventing middle ear effusion. Laryngoscope 1981; 91:616-619.
  • 29. Diamant M, DiamantB. Abuse and timing of use of antibiotics in acute media. Arch Otolaryngol 1974; 100:226-232.
  • 30. Medical Research council. Acute otitis media in general practice. Lancet 1957; 2510-514.
  • 31. Spingelblatt L. Laine-Ammara F, Pless IB, Guyver A. The use of alternative medicine by children. Pediatrics 1994; 94:811-814.
  • 32. Cohn A. A review of the literature regarding stroke and chiropractic. JVSR 2001;4(3):42.
  • 33. Kent C. Models of vertebral subluxation: a review. JVSR 1996;1(1):1-17.
  • 34. Hendricks CL, Larkin-Their SM. Otitis media in young children . Chiro J Chiro Res Stud Invest 1989; 2:9-13.
  • 35. Froehle RM. Ear infection: a retrospective study examining improvement from chiropractic care and analyzing for influencing factors J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1996; 19:169-177.
  • 36. Yochum T. Essentials of Skeletal Radiology. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1996; 197-210.
  • 37. Prax J. Upper cervical chiropractic care of the pediatric patient: A review of the literature Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics 1999; 4:257-263.
  • 38. Lupin AJ. The relationship of the tensor tympani and tensor palati muscles. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1969; 792-796.


Have a question?

Ask Dr. Cohn a question by filling out the form below.

* = required field

Princeton Chiropractic Wellness Center    |     33 State Rd.Suite B, Princeton, NJ 08540   |     Tel: 609-683-3996, Email:
HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices and Legal Notices    |     ©2001-2018, All Rights Reserved.