Whole Family Chiropractic – Dr. Tye Moe – Dr. Chelsey Henney – Pediatric and Family Chiropractors in Minneapolis and St Paul, MN 55116

What Tight Muscle Can Make Ear Infections More Likely in Your Child (and How Do You Help It Relax?)

Is your child struggling with recurring ear infections?  As a parent myself, I know it’s heartbreaking to see your child in pain, and frustrating when you can’t figure out what to do to help.  Chronic ear infections can be especially exhausting because it means missed daycare for your kiddo and missed work for you.  Since graduating in 2007, and specializing in pediatrics, I’ve seen many parents like you…just wanting to know what to do to help!  

One of the best ways to help a kiddo clear out an ear infection (and prevent them from coming back) is by helping their ears drain through their Eustachian tubes.  If fluid builds up there and become stagnant, it means bacteria and viruses have a chance to linger and to multiply, which makes an infection more likely.

In kids with recurring ear infections, this fluid often builds up in the middle ear (infection in this area is called otitis media).  This can be more likely after a cold, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection…when there’s already more fluid and immune response happening in that area.  Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say that, “Eustachian tube disorders are common and one of the leading causes of ear infection (otitis media).”1  

On the flip side, if that fluid drains through the Eustachian tubes and the bugs clear out more quickly…infection is less likely.  This is because, according to Medscape, these tubes, “drain mucus away from the middle ear…thus preventing infection from ascending to the middle ear.”2  By helping fluid drain down and out, middle ear infections can be prevented.

The bottom line is if we can help the Eustachian tubes drain the way they are supposed to, your child will have fewer ear infections.  This is why putting ear tubes in surgically is a common treatment for recurring ear infections…it helps things drain.  However, what if you want to help your child heal in a normal, natural, and healthy way?  What can be done to help prevent fluid building up that doesn’t require a surgery?

What is often overlooked is that the Eustachian tube has muscles that help it open and close.  It is up to these muscles whether the tubes are open for drainage or closed and contained.  One of the key muscles to help open the Eustachian tubes is called the tensor veli palatini muscle (I know the name is fancy, but you can focus more on what it does than what it’s called).  If it is able to do its job correctly, your kiddo’s tubes should naturally open whenever they swallow or yawn.  Ultimately, your kiddo’s tubes should be able to consistently open and drain without any outside help.

Of course that leads us to the next question, what could prevent this tensor veli palatini muscle from working properly?  What could cause it to be tense and tight, preventing the ear tubes from opening and draining?  Just like any other muscle in the body, it is of course controlled by nerves.  The specific nerve come from the brainstem (the mandibular nerve, a branch of cranial nerve 5).  If these nerves give it good supply it knows how to contract when needed and relax when needed (just like all the other muscles in your body).  

As a neurologically based chiropractor, I am always looking for how we can help the nervous system in order to help the body.  If we see someone with a sore neck, we look to the nerves that go to the neck muscles.  If we see someone with digestive issues we look to the nerves that go to the stomach and intestines.  Which means if we see a kiddo with chronic ear infections, we look to the nerves that control the muscles that help the tubes drain!  If these nerves are malfunctioning, the muscles are going to malfunction, and of course that means the tubes will do the same.

The most common areas we see that can affect this nerve, and therefore the tensor veli palatini muscle, are the upper neck and the bones of the head.  These are commonly stressed during the birth process, whether it is a vaginal delivery or a c-section delivery.  

If we find these areas to be off, we use safe, gentle, neurologically-based chiropractic to help things re-balance.  This helps the nervous system regulate the muscles of the ear, which allows the ear tubes to open and drain naturally.  Better drainage is one of the most consistent things parents report as their child is being adjusted (and something they often report very quickly in care!).  

By helping your child’s body work the way it is designed to, it gives them the natural resilience they need to keep infections at bay!

For your kiddo,

Dr. Tye


*Our success in helping kiddos clear out ongoing ear infections has been by strengthening their body internally, rather than helping them avoid all the bugs.  Because we can’t keep our kids in a bubble (or make the bugs go away), we help their body be strong and resilient to handle what life brings their way.

To schedule an appointment and see if we can help your kiddo, call us at 651-789-0033 or email feelawesome@healthyfamilymn.com


1 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/eustachian-tube-dysfunction

2 https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/874348-overview


Interested in understanding more?  Check out this webinar:

Help to Break the Cycle of Recurring Ear Infections and Antibiotics

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