Osteopathic treatment for recurring ear infections.
I have had quite a few enquiries from parents lately about osteopathic treatment for recurring ear infections in young children and thought I would share some general information with you…
Ear infections are common in young children
Otitis media (OM) or infection of the middle ear is one of the most common illnesses that affects preschool children. Ear infections in babies and young children often occur after an infection with the common cold, and most children will have at least one case of OM before the age of three years.
Structurally and anatomically, there are a few reasons that make babies and young children more prone to ear infections. To begin with the shape of the ear canal is shorter and more horizontal than in adults, and this may make it harder for the fluid in the ears to drain easily. If the fluid within the ear canal is not draining easily it stays in one place for longer and can be more likely to become infected by bacteria or viruses. It is also more difficult for younger children to equalise the pressure within their ears voluntarily by moving their jaw as adults will tend to do. Games that encourage jaw and tongue movements may help to equalise the pressure within the ears and can help young children to manage the discomfort that OM causes.
The eustachian tube (ET) that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat plays an important role in draining fluid from the middle ear. The ET is involved in equalising the pressure between the middle ear and the outside air pressure, clearing debris and secretions towards the throat and preventing the entry of secretions and bacteria from the airways. The ET opens during crying, yawning and swallowing. When infected, the lining of the ET tube can also become swollen and this makes it more difficult for the ET to drain the ear and to balance the pressure.
Osteopathic treatment approach
Osteopathic treatment for recurring ear infections aims to improve the structural relationship of the bones, soft tissues and muscles around the ET in order to promote better drainage of fluid from the middle ear. Treatment involves gentle techniques including massage, articulation (moving a joint through its range of motion), and cranial osteopathic techniques for the bones of the skull. Exercises that can be done by the child and by parents to help promote ET drainage may also be given to be done at home.
I hope this general information is helpful, please contact us by phone or email if you have specific questions you would like to have answered by our osteopaths.
Sergueef N. Cranial osteopathy for children for children and adolescents. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2007:216-224.
Moeckel E, Mitha N. Textbook of paediatric osteopathy. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:283-287.