Ear hurts so BAD!!: So I woke up late afternoon... - Pain Concern

Pain Concern
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Ear hurts so BAD!!

So I woke up late afternoon and my ear started to hurt. At first i didnt think much of it, it was more like pressure then anything else. But after a hot shower it started to hurt small pain at first but its been about 4hrs. The Urgent care doesn't open till 8am. I have tried steam,shaking my head,holding my nose and blowing, jumping up and down....everything. I tried water in it but that made me scream in pain. I dont know what else i can do until 8am. Yawning and burping makes it feel almost like its gunna pop but not there yet. It hurts so bad guys!!

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Hi there CubanGirl (such an adorable screen name, BTW😍❣️); this is SqueakMouse🐭, and it's so nice to "meet" you😋😉! But I do wish it were under happier conditions😢...I'm so so sorry that you're suffering with so much pain😦. I've had quite a few illnesses and accidents that had severe ear pain as a symptom and/or as a result of some other accident or illness, and I'd be happy to share those details with you, in hopes of getting you some relief before you go in to urgent care (I do think that's a wise choice; with pain this sudden and severe, it's worthwhile to get to the causes😉). If you still happen to have this thread open, I just wanted to ask you a few questions about your experience (?). It will help me know a little better which interventions might prove more helpful for you; as i said, I've had several painful issues with my ears, and I don't want to drown you in details or treatment options that don't apply to you😜. If I can't connect with you in the next few minutes, I'll just go ahead and type up some of those tips for you as fast as I can😋. In the meantime, hang in there as best you can; I know you're suffering horribly right now, but you are not alone in this--somehow, someway, we're gonna find a way to get you feeling better--I promise😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

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Could it be a draft blowing cold air, I had and still do, if I get a draft on my ears they hurt like hell and even to touch them hurt even more, now I try to keep them warm when in a cold windy/drafts place.I hope you find the answers you to your question.


Thank u


Hey CubanGirl, it's SqueakMouse again😉 Here are the questions that would be help me know best how to help you😋Don't worry about feeling as though you have to provide an encyclopedia set of details (unless you want to😍❣️ The more details the better, as far as my ability to recommend the interventions and/or home remedies that would be most likely to heal you/provide sufficient relief😍

You said the ear pain started rather suddenly, but I don't remember any mention of an accident or injury in the minutes/hours/days before this pain (?), so I'm thinking it might be related to an infection of some kind.

Along those lines: Do you have any other signs or symptoms of infection (fever; loss of appetite; redness, swelling, itching, pain, and/or heat in a specific area)? And if so, where on your ear are these signs and symptoms located? (For instance, earlobe is hot, red, and swollen, but no such issues on the inner folds of the ear or inside the ear canal? Or maybe there's no obvious redness or swelling anywhere visible, but you feel that severe pain deep in your ear canal, almost as if your eardrum were hypersensitive?

Do you feel that your sense of balance or ability to focus is affected? Meaning, does the floor seem to tilt or the room sometimes spin, or do you find yourself feeling "cotton-headed", "disoriented", overly sleepy or drained? Do you find yourself being more clumsy than usual (stumbling, falling, bumping into walls and countertops or doorways? Does it make you nauseous or dizzy or disoriented when you have to turn your head a lot, like driving?

If you tug down (gently) on your earlobe, do you feel pain?--and if so, where? Middle Ear infections often cause severe pain inside the ear canal that worsens when you pull on the earlobe.

Are there any blisters, sores, bumps, or rashes anywhere in or around your ear?

Is the pain more of an ache, or numbness, or a sharp burning pain? Does the pain radiate anywhere? (Such as down along the jawline, or on the side of your face towards you eye, or even a tingling or burning combined with numbness on the side of your head with the ear pain?

As I mentioned earlier, I can't give you a definite answer yet (as to what is likely to be causing this ear pain yet, at least not until I hear what the answers to the aforementioned questions might be😉

In the meantime, there are a few options that can offer some symptom relief regardless of the cause😋 Prescription Emla cream (or the generic lidocaine 2.5%/prilocaine 2.5%) is used to numb the skin for IV sites, burns, rashes, shingles, pain from redness and swelling and itching, and ulcerations and blisters too (anything "hot"--burning, Itching, swelling--often benefits from a cortisone cream like Cortaid as well, to soothe the itching and redness. I often dip a Q-tip in either cortisone or Emla (or both, if you have inflammatory signs like redness and itching, and neuralgia or other pain like ulcerations, blisters, or tingling), and use that to slowly and gently coat the entire painful area (carefully! You don't want to go poking the eardrum from too rigorous application,but it really does help lessen the pain and burning 😍

If you don't have/can't get a prescription for Emla, there's a new back pain product sold OTC at most pharmacies and grocery stores (and Amazon and Target) called "Odor Free Aspercreme with Lidocaine: Numbs Away Pain, Desensitizes Aggravated Nerves, Fast Acting and Penetrating; Non-Irritating", sold in a 4.7oz bottle. It is a wonderful substitute for Emla because even though it's an OTC product, it contains 4% Lidocaine--which is virtually prescription strength--and no other ingredients that are helpful for some patients in relieving joint or muscle pain, but could irritate nerve pain, rashes, or open wounds/ulcerations, such as menthol.

Note: Lidocaine-based OTC products are becoming more prevalent, with several famous back and joint pain rubs (like Blue Emu) starting to sell a lidocaine-added option. But be very careful to read the entire label before purchasing; two popular ingredients in these types of products--capascasin/"hot pepper" and menthol--cause a temporary burning sensation that temporarily distracts the mind and nervous system from the physical pain/damage, eventually "scrambling" the pain signals so the nerve damage pain feels less overwhelming and painful. However, in many cases (particularly those involving nerve pain and irritated/injured skin), these two products can increase the pain rather than soothe it, even when the reliably comforting lidocaine has been added to the formula😬.

Furthermore, products with two or more active ingredients tend to have lower percentages of each ingredient than products with only one or two of these ingredients do. So even though the prescription strength of lidocaine averages around 5%, many of these pain rubs that are menthol and/or capascasin based feature an average of 3% lidocaine or less in the newer products that have added it.

In other words, a product that appears to be a wise choice--"pain relieving" AND added lidocaine, which is one of the most effective numbing ingredients available, and certainly one of the most effective numbing ingredients available OTC--actually has the potential to INCREASE your pain rather than decrease or eliminate it; the menthol and/or capascasin can cause nerve pain to worsen, and the percentage of lidocaine is too low to wholly reverse that increase in pain, much less heal it😢

That's why I specifically mentioned "Odor Free Aspercreme with 4% Lidocaine: Numbs Away Pain, Desensitizes Aggravated Nerves, Fast Acting and Penetrating; Non-Irritating", sold in a 4.7oz bottle. ("Odor" in these types of products usually refers to menthol, as it is an extremely popular pain-relieving ingredient in OTC rubs, and there is no way to mask it's characteristic medicinal smell😦). I've personally tested and researched all the available OTC options, and this was the only product without potentially irritating ingredients like menthol (the only such product that's available at most grocery stores, big box stores, and chain pharmacies anyway; there are a few others that are equally good, but they can only be reliably found online; I'd be happy to share those brands with you too, if you're interested😋)

Also, Aspercreme's 4.7 oz. bottle is fairly large (and a good bargain too, especially if you're only treating a small area like an ear, so you won't be likely to run out of it quickly, as often happens with the prescription brand Emla (which is only sold in very small tubes, which is approximately the size of those miniature toothpaste tubes you get in hotels, travel kits, or from the dentist's office😉).

I've also found ice packs to be super effective for calming ear pain (for ear pain causing redness, itching, pain,swelling, etc. on the visible parts of the ear; there's not a lot you can do with ice packs for an inner ear infection or pain/inflammation/itching behind the ear drum...not only because most of the pain is deep inside the ear (and therefore beyond the reach of most commercial ice packs), but also because a lot of commercially sold ice packs are too big, inflexible, and/or heavy to be comfortably used for the ears).

But I've found a DIY project that can get you some pretty useful ice packs for small or sensitive parts of the ear. One of them is made with a simple latex balloon (or the latex-free brands, if you have a latex allergy😋), which can be bought for pennies at a dollar store, toy or party store, or through an online retailer like Amazon--a small one that would be about the size of a tennis ball or softball if you were to fill them with air.

I try to make at least three at a time of the following ice packs, so I can always have a back-up or two in the freezer whenever the one I'm using has defrosted and needs to be swapped out😉

Just take one of the balloons and hold the neck of it open under a slowly running faucet, until it is at about 80% of it's full capacity (you don't want it to be so big and so round that it would be the equivalent of holding a frozen soccer ball against your head😉).

Once you tie off the neck of the balloon, it should be almost tear-drop shaped, because they are a wee bit under-filled, to about the size of the palm of your hand. (Again, try to make two or three of these, so you always have one in reserve to replace the defrosted one with).

In addition, I make several more of these "water balloon ice packs" using latex gloves (or preferably, latex-free)--the kind that fit closely to your hand, which you can buy in bulk from grocery stores for cleaning projects (but NOT the thicker, longer rubber dishwashing gloves, which are usually sold in single pairs) or from pharmacies for medical use. I just snip off the fingers of one of the gloves, fill the finger with water (not too full though; you're going to need extra latex to tie off the open end, and you want the finished ice pack to be thin enough for use in and around the ear canal), and then tie off the open end with a secure knot).

Once they have been placed on a tray or inside a bowl in the freezer (any kind of flat protected surface that allows these balloons to freeze without distorting their shape, or allowing them to fall through the open slats that make up most freezer shelves). The pinky fingers of latex gloves are especially good for using behind the ear, or when the ear canal itself is feeling hot, itchy, red, and achy😋

As they melt they become even more malleable and moldable, which makes it easier to address those parts of the ear that are typically nearly impossible to ice (folds of the outer ear, the inner ear canal, the back of the ear, etc.

Of course, it's of primary importance that you don't shove an ice pack in your ear canal, or otherwise force it into places it doesn't easily and safely fit into; that's why I suggest making several individual ice packs out of several different "fingers" of the latex glove, so you have various options of various sizes to choose from, depending on what's safest and most comfortable for your ear😉.

And if you're in a lot of pain but don't have enough time to make up these ice packs, an easy and effective option is to use a small Ziploc sandwich bag and fill it only about 25% to 50% with finely crushed ice; these are extremely malleable and can be easily adjusted to focus on a specific part of your ear, and are especially good when some of the ice has turned to water--by squeezing the water into a corner of the bag like cake icing you're piping on to a cupcake, you have a cold but flexible and soothing treatment item😋.

For instance, the cold water that forms from melted ice can be directed into one corner of the bag and then "locked in" there by twisting the bag or pinching that corner off with your fingers; then that corner can be as thin or wide or crooked or straight as needs be, in order to access the opening of the inner ear canal or to cool all the many nooks and crannies of the outer ear folds at once😉 I hope some of this makes sense?; it's a very very simple and effective and inexpensive method of treatment, but a little hard to describe without How-To photos😋😉

One last note: As I said earlier, it's hard for me to identify the cause if your pain😢; I'm not a medical professional, and since there are so many things that could potentially cause symptoms like yours, there's other information about the absence or presence of other symptoms (fever, dizziness, etc.) that would be necessary data to accurately determining the cause of your pain😬 And if you have the time or ability to send some of those details (from the questions I included at the beginning of this text), I would be more than happy to try and give you some suggestions that align most closely with your symptoms😋

Of the many causes of severe ear pain, few of them have a sudden onset, or are so severe as to be disabling right out of the gate (which yours certainly seems to be😢). Ear infections can be very painful (as can sinus and tooth infections, which can sometimes be felt as ear pain), but usually those do not come on suddenly with high intensity, or without systemic problems accompanying them (fever; chills; pain or pressure in the eye/cheek/jawbone; vertigo or dizziness; loss of appetite or nausea, etc.).

That's not to say that infections such as these aren't the potential cause of your pain (again, additional details would be helpful in determining that😍). Most such infections would be treated with a combination of either antibiotics, anti-virals, or anti-fungals (depending on the cause of the infection), and symptom relief like pain medicine, decongestants, steroids for inflammation, etc.

One of the most common causes of sudden and severe pain (severe to the point of desperation)--outside of an accident or injury--is something affecting the nerves. Possibilities include trigeminal neuralgia (a very painful condition affecting some nerves on the side of the head that extend in three branches along the jawline, cheek, and under the eye); it can be an agonizing condition that is often felt in and around the ear, in addition to the locations just described. Treatment include special medications for neuropathies (like gabapentin/neurontin and Lyrica), pain meds, numbing cream, nerve blocks, ice, and steroids, to name the most common.

Another disorder affecting the nerves in and around the ear is shingles, a blistering rash that is caused by VZV, otherwise known as the chicken pox virus. Once a person has had the chicken pox, the virus "goes dormant" in one of the nerve roots throughout the body (different location for everyone); if the person gets run down or their immune system is stressed or something happens to the numerous aspects of the immune system that typically keep the virus suppressed, VZV will travel along the nerve and manifest on the surface of the skin inside a dermatome (a specific area of skin associated with a specific nerve) as neuralgia/burning nerve pain, numbness, itching, and/or aching, and eventually becomes visible as well as tangible, in the form of redness, swelling, blisters, and ulcerations. It can be agonizing, with terrible pain both on the surface of the skin and in the affected nerves beneath it. It can also come on suddenly and appear to be invisible at first, when the neuralgia had started but the rash and blistering hasn't yet manifested (there is also a more rare but equally medically acknowledged type of shingles where the rash/blisters never end up appearing, but all the other symptoms typical of shingles (burning or itching or aching nerve pain; nausea; fever; exhaustion; stabbing shocks, etc.) are present.

If the shingles appear in and/or around the ear, in addition to the aforementioned symptoms, there can be muffled hearing; a sense of pain or pressure or itching deep in the inner ear; hearing damage or loss; a secondary infection to the inner ear or on the outer ear or in the throat, meninges (protective membranes of the brain), eyes, and/or sinuses; vertigo or dizziness;

pain in the teeth or jaw; swollen glands along the jawline, and difficulty talking and chewing (due to severe pain, mostly, but occasionally due to swelling in the area or inflammation of the nerve).

Treatment includes symptom management (pain meds; numbing creams like Emla, and/or anti-itching creams like cortisone; anti-viral/antibiotic/steroid creams for blisters, skin inflammation, and infected blisters) and prescribed medications (primarily anti-virals like valycyclovir and acyclovir for the VZV; steroids for inflammation of the skin and nerves; and if hearing loss occurs, there is a procedure performed by ENTs that inject steroid inside the eardrum, which can be very effective at reducing swelling and restoring damage.

An ER doctor or internist at an urgent care center should be able to identify which (if any) of the above are the likely cause of your troublesome symptoms, and they'll either be able to start treatment themselves, or send you to various specialists for more intensive testing and focused treatments. If your pain has started to subside and you think you can postpone the urgent care visit for the time being, but you have established relationships with various specialists, these are the folks who are most likely to be the most knowledgeable about the various conditions, and therefore the most effective at managing your symptoms and addressing their cause:

*Infections of the inner ear: ENT's (Ear, Nose, and Throat physicians);

*Infections of the Sinuses or swollen lymph nodes around the ear and jawline, secondary to an ear infection: ENT's

*Infections of the Outer Ear (Ear folds, earlobe, skin of the ear): ENT's, and/or Dermatologists (who can treat cellulitis, blistering, rash, redness, etc. that can occur with an infection of the outer ear);

*Vertigo, Dizziness, Nausea secondary to an Ear Infection: ENT's can treat the infection, but if these symptoms linger past the time the infection has cleared, a Neurologist can evaluate and treat the vertigo, etc. Also, ENT's often work with specially trained physical therapists who can treat chronic or especially disabling dizziness, vertigo, and nausea with techniques that adjust the crystals and/or small bones in the inner ear that can be disrupted by an accident, injury, or infection.

*Trigeminal Neuralgia: Neurologist

*Shingles: Neurologist; and/or Dermatologist; and/or ENT; and/or Infectious Diseases Specialist; and/or Immunologist: Relatively few people get shingles at all in their lifetime, and even fewer get shingles that are followed by complications, and fewer still get it more than once. Therefore, an internist or ER doctor can usually identify and treat shingles accurately and effectively.

However, if the rash doesn't heal, or the nerve pain remains in the area long past the time that the rash has disappeared, a Neurologist can evaluate and treat PHN ("Post-Herpetic Neuralgia"; VZV is a virus from the herpes family, so the blisters are considered to be a herpetic rash; and while it's common for some nerve pain and sensitivity to linger for a bit after the acute infection is over, long-lasting or extreme pain isn't normal--but it happens to enough patients to be a unique disease process and diagnosis all it's own (PHN), that can often be managed and treated successfully by a Neurologist.

Any unusually severe or long-lasting rash/blistering/scarring should be evaluated by a dermatologist, who has medications and techniques to address that beyond what most Neurologists seem to be capable of.

Shingles that have affected the nerves of the inner ear (Any of the following that did not exist prior to the onset of the VZV infection, or that were much less severe prior to the shingles diagnosis: dizziness; vertigo; nausea; disorientation; stumbling or falling or tripping; a feeling or visual impression of the floor tilting or sliding; tinnitus/ringing or buzzing in the ears; a sensation of ongoing aching or itching in the eardrum/behind the eardrum; any changes in hearing, from excessive noise sensitivity to decreased hearing ability to outright hearing loss) also require more knowledge and experience in these areas than those who can diagnose and treat most cases of shingles (Neurologists or ER doctors or Primary Care Physicians), and these specialized ENT's have both the training and the equipment to do this advanced screening.

Many Neurologists will have just such an ENT that they work with and trust for these sorts of cases, and will refer you there if he or she finds a reason for it (but if the neurologist fails to do so, and you feel that you're suffering too much and too long with symptoms such as those listed above, don't hesitate to ask them for a referral--and if they don't already know of or work with someone, ask them for a referral to any ENT practice, and then do some internet research into which ENT's in your area have experience with shingles-related auditory nerve damage (or call a few offices and ask them directly; it's a specialized area, so the staff will know if those are procedures they do often or not😉).

I've been through everything I've described here several times myself (I have an immunodeficiency and no antibodies to VZV, so I've had shingles and all its many secondary effects more times than I'd like to remember😦), and I'm so grateful for the knowledge and expertise of these doctors and the effectiveness of the procedures; for instance, prior to getting referred by my VZV-expert of a neurologist to an ENT who was equally well versed in VZV, I never would have known that VZV-related hearing loss could even be addressed, much less cured, so I feel incredibly lucky to have had these referrals😍

Alrighty then, one last physician recommendation😋. If you happen to get diagnosed with shingles as the cause of your ear pain and (1) You heal from it incompletely and/or slowly; (2) You have a history of multiple infections, which are either slow to heal or never fully heal (like cuts or colds that take forever to improve, and never quite resolve, or (3) The shingles blisters cross the midline of the body/extends outside a single dermatome (this is called "disseminated shingles"; once a person has experienced a chicken pox infection--usually before age 10--and the virus typically "goes dormant" by collecting in a single nerve root, any future shingles outbreak and its concurrent blistering rash should stay within the confines of the dermatome associated with that nerve, at least in patients with more or less "healthy" immune systems; however, in patients with deficient or damaged immune systems, the shingles virus multiplies virtually unimpeded, and eventually expands beyond that one nerve root and its single dermatome, with blisters appearing anywhere and everywhere on their body, which are either extremely slow to heal or succumb to a secondary infection (or both).

None of the above are even remotely normal for the average shingles patient, so if you notice any or all of the aforementioned complications happening to you, it's really important that you follow up with Immunology and/or Infectious Disease specialists (and ideally both; Infectious Disease can identify any secondary infections you might have, and Immunology can work up your immune system to find out where any weaknesses are and why they might be there in the first place). The treatments vary depending upon the results of those work-ups; because of the lack of VZV antibodies , insufficient memory cells, and and damaged immune system, ill be on daily antivirals and antibiotics for the rest of my life, and weekly immunoglobulin infusions for the rest of my life😬; it's frustrating and time consuming and sad sometimes, but worth it not to have shingles every day year round, for sure😋

Okey-dokey, that's everything I can think of that might be useful for you😍; I really really REALLY hope it helps😉. I'm so very sorry that this text is so extremely long🙄; I just felt so bad that you're in so much pain, so I wanted to give you as much information as possible, in hopes that at least some of it will bring you a little relief😋 Please don't hesitate to ask if

there's anything you'd like further clarification on, or if there's anything I can do to help❤️ My thoughts and prayers are with you😍❣️


I dont have an ear ache but I appreciate all your information and the time you take to share. Thank you.



It could be an ear infection, but I know I go to the doctor quite often with an ear ache only to find out my ears are perfectly fine. Between my arthritis and fibro the inflammation (mainly the inflammation that occurs in my TMJ) causes the inflamed muscles to put pressure on my ears, which feels like a horrible ear ache. I hope you fine relief soon!


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