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Ask the Doulas Episode 66: Ear Infections

Today we talk with Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness Chiropractic to learn more about ear infections. What are the signs in children and how can chiropractic care help? Can it also help adults? You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes.

Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. This is Kristin, and I’m here with my business partner, Alyssa.

Alyssa: Hello!

Kristin: And we also have Dr. Rachel.

Dr. Rachel: Hello!

Kristin: And Dr. Annie.

Dr. Annie: Hiya!

Kristin: From Rise Wellness here with us today, and our topic is ear infections in children, and certainly, we can also cover adults. So, Dr. Annie, I’ll let you take the lead on this. How can chiropractic care help with ear infections?

Dr. Annie: Crazy, right? So what we find with a lot of ear infection cases is that it’s related to how the nervous system is functioning, and so we find a lot of upper cervical, so upper neck misalignment affecting the nervous system, and affects how your ears drain. And so in kiddos or in adults, that’s usually the culprit, at least that’s what we find in our office, and it’s amazing what a simple adjustment can do to reawaken the nervous system in those areas and allow your ears to just drain and then allow your immune system to take care of it.

Kristin: Ear infections are no fun, especially with babies. I think the biggest thing is catching it early enough and identifying what the signs of an ear infection would be before it gets so bad that they need to go in and get scans and get antibiotics. So if they’re getting chiropractic care, then they’re able to, again, like you said, get drainage. But I think a lot of parents don’t know what the signs are of an ear infection, unless it gets to the point where it’s so bad that their baby is screaming and not sleeping. But there are some signs that I learned as a parent that I could catch early on.

Dr. Annie: What are those signs?

Kristin: My daughter had one when I was pregnant with my son and I had to take her in, but she was pulling on her ears. So if they’re pulling, and obviously if the ear is red — again, as we had mentioned in a previous podcast about that preference where if they’re not laying on their head on one side — so it’s just noticing what’s out of the norm for them.

Dr. Rachel: I think a lot of times they’ll have a cold, too, right? Because then that’s not draining well, so usually it’s an issue, and the bacteria builds up in there and creates an infection.

Dr. Annie: And it’s hard with little kids because you don’t necessarily — a lot of parents will confuse teething with ear infections, too, which is a big thing because a lot of drainage comes out when a baby is teething, too, so that can appear to be like a cold, and some kids will be put on antibiotics when it’s not even any sort of infection.

Kristin: So what’s an adjustment like for a baby with an ear infection or just too much fluid in their ears? Can you explain what that would be like?

Dr. Annie: Yeah, sure! So with anything, whether it’s an ear infection or whatever a parent is coming in for with their baby, what we’re looking for is subluxation. We’re looking for misalignment of the bone that’s affecting the nervous system there. And so we would do a scan to see how the nervous system is communicating at that area, and then the adjustment itself is just super gentle pressure with your pinkie. We say it’s the amount of pressure that you would use to check the ripeness of a tomato. It’s so gentle, to the point where parents are like, are you even doing anything? But it’s amazing what it can do. It will clear up the scan. It will help —

Alyssa: So you can do your little scan on a baby? Do they lay on their tummy and you scan them?

Dr. Rachel: Mom holds, and we can scan them, and then we’ll show the irritated area, which is usually in the upper cervical area.

Dr. Annie: It’s like every single time, we’re like, okay, we’re pretty sure this is what’s going on, and then we do the scan, and we’re like, yeah, exactly what we thought. It’s that upper cervical misalignment, that atlas. But the reason is those nerves that come out right there in the neck control the eustachian tube or the muscle that controls the eustachian tube. The nerve that goes to that controls the contraction of that muscle, so if that muscle’s not contracting, then the eustachian tube can’t milk fluid down, so then you get that fluid buildup in the ears, which is going to cause pressure, and a lot of those ear infection symptoms. Bacteria can grow in there, and that’s usually further down the line, but that’s why they are giving antibiotics for those things. So usually if you catch it, there isn’t even a bacterial infection. It’s just that buildup of fluid that’s causing pressure, that’s causing that irritation. So if we can correct that early and get that muscle working the way it’s supposed to, then the ears can drain and life’s good.

Dr. Rachel: It sounds like you’re catching an ear infection?

Alyssa: My ear started hurting yesterday, so I’m going to come see you and get adjusted! It’s on the same side that I’ve had that weird kink, so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.

Dr. Annie: It’s all connected.

Alyssa: I’ll come have you fix me when we’re done.

Dr. Annie: Perfect!

Kristin: And I was having issues just last week with my ears popping or feeling like they couldn’t clear, and so I saw both Dr. Rachel and Dr. Annie, and I feel great right now! So even if it’s not a full-on infection, if you’re feeling like your ears are just not right, like they’re popping or you feel like you have water in the ear…

Dr. Annie: Or ringing in the ears, dizziness, stuff like that. I mean, it’s all related to that upper cervical spine, for sure.

Kristin: Yeah, it makes sense. So with a lot of these cases, they would need to just get in quickly, especially if they think their child has an ear infection. How would they go about reaching out to you if they’re not a current patient? How do they start that process?

Dr. Annie: They can find our information on our website . They can contact us on Facebook or Instagram, too, and send us a message. Both of those are @risewellnesschiro. Or they can call us.

Dr. Rachel: You can schedule your own appointment on our website.

Dr. Annie: Yeah, we try to make it really accessible, but we’ll also answer email anytime. We’re always on. Even if we don’t always answer the phone, we’re always…

Alyssa: That’s the motto of a business owner! You’re always on!

Dr. Annie: Especially with things like that, we want that to be your first response, to get your kid into the chiropractor. And so we want to be there for you when those situations arise. It’s not like a medical emergency, but to us, we want that to be your first line of defense, and then if things go awry from there, maybe seek treatment if needed, but usually, it’s not. Typically, we can clear some things up just by allowing the body to work naturally the way it’s supposed to.

Kristin: Yeah. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about tubes in the ear, but what — I mean, could chiropractic care prevent the need to get tubes?

Dr. Annie: So the tubes are to release pressure, so when I was talking about that nerve maybe not working or not communicating with that muscle the way it’s supposed to, if that muscle isn’t milking fluid down the ears, then you have that buildup of pressure. And so, often, to relieve that pressure, then tubes will be put in. And so what they do is they cut a little hole and then put a block in there so that hole can’t heal, because your body would heal it and just cover it up again, and then that pressure would build back up. So they put like a little tunnel in there to keep it open to relieve that pressure, like a pressure valve, but really, the need for that wouldn’t be necessary if things were working properly.

Dr. Rachel: One thing to note is if a kid has an ear infection, they come in, and they get adjusted, and maybe it clears up and they feel better right away, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t get another ear infection again. It’s one of those things, like, kids walk and they fall and they’re rolling and they’re hitting their heads. They can get a misalignment again, and that just might be how their body responds to that. So just because you get adjusted once and you get another ear infection later, it doesn’t mean that chiropractic didn’t work. It means that — like I said, my kids have been adjusted since birth. They get adjusted whenever they need to. It’s not like a one-time thing and then they’re good to go.

Kristin: And you said they haven’t had any ear infections as a result?

Dr. Rachel: No, they’ve never had an ear infection.

Alyssa: Well, especially kids — I mean, the amount of times a day my daughter falls or bumps into something — even me. I’m just as clumsy.

Dr. Rachel: The twins pull each other down now. They pull each other down on the ground.

Alyssa: Yeah. I probably misalign myself three times a day!

Dr. Rachel: Right. So it’s just one of those things, too, that I feel like sometimes people think, oh, they just need one adjustment and they’re good to go, but it’s also true that adjustment isn’t only good for ear infections. It’s just good to keep their nervous and immune system going.

Dr. Annie: Everything working in coordination.

Dr. Rachel: Yeah. And they respond really well to adjustments. Not that they have to come in three times a week; it’s more like just keeping up a maintenance thing to keep your kids checked.

Dr. Annie: That kind of depends, too, as far as what our recommendations would be, like how long that misalignment has been there. In a previous episode, we talked about birth trauma, and so if that misalignment has been there since birth, if the kid’s never been checked, and now they’re two or four or five and having chronic ear infections, it may take a little longer for them to respond, just because we’re working against time.

Kristin: That makes sense.

Dr. Rachel: So it’s better, like you said, to get them checked after birth.

Dr. Annie: Yep, prevent those things from happening, exactly.

Kristin: Thanks for joining us today!

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