Pain behind the ear


There are many different causes of back pain. The type of pain can also be different. In some people, it is a dull nonspecific pain, in others, the jaw also hurts and other complaints are possible. The following article discusses the common causes of back pain, the accompanying symptoms, and broad treatment approaches for a variety of conditions.

Figure pain behind the ear: head from left and causes A-D

Pain behind the ear

  1. Upper jaw -
  2. Molar and wisdom tooth -
    Dens molaris
  3. Mandible -
  4. Thyroid -
    Glandula thyroidea
  5. Head turner -
    Sternocleidomastoid muscle
  6. Belt muscle -
    Musculus splenius
  7. Masseter (Kaumuskel) -
    Masseter muscle
  8. Facial nerve (7th cranial nerve) -
    Facial nerve
  9. Mastoid Lymph Node -
    Nodi lymphoidei mastoid
    Possible causes:
    A - Facial nerve palsy
    (Paralysis of the facial nerve) -
    Paralysis of the face and loss
    the facial expressions
    B - lymph node swelling -
    Pfeiffer's glandular fever
    (Kiss disease),
    Rubella infection, toxoplasmosis
    C - toothache - especially
    Inflammation of the molars
    and wisdom teeth
    D - De-Quervain's thyroiditis -
    rare inflammatory disease
    the thyroid gland
    E - Muscular causes -
    muscular tension in the
    Area of ​​the neck and
    Neck muscles (without picture)


Behind the ears are lymph nodes. Their location is therefore referred to as retroauricular. These lymph nodes, like our remaining lymph nodes, perform immune defense tasks. In the context of immunological reactions, such as occur in inflammation and infectious diseases, lymph nodes can swell. An example of this is the Pfeiffersche glandular fever, which is caused by the Ebstein Barr virus. This disease is mainly through adolescents. A painful lymph node swelling is quite normal here, so just pain behind the ears can occur. But also respiratory infections, tonsillitis and inflammation of the teeth very often lead to painful lymph node swelling in the neck and head. The lymph nodes behind the ear are then swollen, painful and can be moved against the ground. Such a retroauricular swelling is harmless and usually disappears within two weeks by itself. Any swelling that lasts more than three weeks, should be clarified by a doctor, especially to rule out a malignant cause. In the context of protracted diseases such as glandular fever and inflammation, however, such painful lymph node swelling behind the ear may persist for more than three weeks. However, these lymph node swellings do not require special therapy. The underlying infection or inflammation is treated individually. When the cause disappears, the pains disappear behind the ears.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen relieve the pain and can be taken when needed. However, it is important to clarify what the cause of the swelling is. In question come bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, allergic reactions or diseases of the immune system. In addition, metabolic diseases, diseases of the lymphatic system and even malignant diseases ( cancer ) may be the cause. Malignant lymph node swelling is usually very firm and not displiable. Often she does not hurt either. Pressure on surrounding structures can still cause pain behind the ear, so keep it in mind. Here, the therapy usually consists in the surgical removal of primary tumors and chemotherapy and / or radiation.

Bell's palsy

Facial nerve palsy is a paralysis of the facial nerve. This cranial nerve primarily supplies the muscles of the face, causing paralysis of the face and loss of facial expression. Such facial palsy can have various causes. It may be congenital, acquired, infectious or inflammatory. Even a sudden occurrence without organic cause is possible. Facial palsy can be felt a few days earlier by a sharp, sudden pain behind the ear. The pain usually occurs behind one of the ears one to three days before the paresis. Also pain of the jaw and neck are typical. Gradually, paralysis symptoms like drooping corners of the mouth are added. Such paresis must be treated differently depending on the cause. If the paresis is without organic findings, it usually passes by itself again after some time. The pain usually only appears as a harbinger at the beginning. Pain medications and cortisone preparations can additionally relieve the symptoms. In the case of organic causes such as an existing infection or a malignant underlying disease, a cause therapy (eg with antibiotics or cytostatics) eliminates the symptoms.

Muscular causes

A common cause of back pain is muscular tension in the neck and neck muscles. Such tensions can be partially felt as hardening. Tilting or twisting the head can also cause pain. Also, a tension of the jaw muscles can cause pain behind the ear. The spatial proximity of the jaw with the ears justifies why the pain is there too. It can help to massage the muscles and perform stretching exercises. For very severe pain, physiotherapy may be needed. Even painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac can effectively relieve the symptoms here. There are also active ingredients for very stubborn tension that relax the muscles. Such drugs are called muscle relaxants. It is important, however, to strengthen his muscles through exercises so that the symptoms do not recur.


Toothache can radiate widely.

Inflammation of the teeth, especially the wisdom teeth, can sometimes spread to the ears. So if you have wisdom teeth, it's best to consult a dentist. But even the molars can be affected by inflammation and be so painful. Again, there are occasional pains behind the ears.

jaw pain

Pain in the bony or muscular structures of the jaw can also be seen behind the ear.

De Quervain's thyroiditis

Pain behind the ear can also be an indication of a rare inflammatory thyroid disease. The reason for this is not yet clear, but there seems to be a certain genetic predisposition as well as a correlation with respiratory tract infections. When pressure on the thyroid, it typically hurts behind the ears. There are also symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache and pain in the thyroid gland. This rare form of thyroid inflammation usually heals spontaneously on its own. However, NSAIDs ( non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen) or high-dose glucocorticoids such as prednisolone may be given to relieve symptoms. Since the pain behind the ear usually leads the patient to the ENT or dentist, the diagnosis of such an inflammation of the thyroid gland often only after the consultation of several doctors ensured.


Behind the ears run many small and larger nerve branches. In neuralgia, as it can occur, for example, after a zoster infection ( shingles ) ( post-zoster neuralgia ), it can also cause nerve pain behind the ear. Neuralgia develops, for example, after infections but also through pressure and stretching of nerves, in the course of metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and others. There is pain in the peripheral nerve supply area. Again, the therapy is causal. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to alleviate the symptoms.

Craniomandibular dysfunction

A craniomandibular dysfunction is understood to mean a great variety of dysregulations of the muscle and / or joint functions of the temporomandibular joints. These can have different causes. Clinical symptoms are of course primarily discomfort when chewing but also radiating pain in the face, head, neck and behind the ears. Tinnitus, earache, dizziness and other symptoms can also occur. The therapy is extensive and includes medical, psychotherapeutic, physiotherapeutic and other therapeutic approaches such as nerve stimulation. It is important to counteract the chronification of the pain, since a therapy is then very difficult. It is especially important to inform the patient comprehensively about the different therapeutic approaches in order to achieve a good cooperation.


Pain behind the ears can have many different causes. They may be nervous or muscular origin but also occur in the course of a simple cold. It is often lymph node swelling that causes the pain. Also diseases of the jaw, the teeth and the thyroid can cause the pain. So you can see that pain behind the ears can be the expression of different diseases. Mostly they are only temporary and harmless nature.

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