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Severe pain in lower jaw and ears while traveling through airways. Cause and cure?

Answered by
Dr. Michelle Gibson James

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2001

Answered : 15637 Questions

Posted on Thu, 14 Feb 2013 in Brain and Spine
Question: hello,
while travelling through airways i feel tremendous & unbearable pain in my lower jaw when the flight takes off & lands. Also the pain arises exactly above my ears & i feel as if the nerves are goin to burst.

Please help with probable solutions
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 1 hour later
HI, thanks for using healthcare magic

Airplane travel is associated with differences in pressure between the person's body and the enviroment. During take off and landing there is rapidly changing pressure in the surrounding which interact with your own individual body pressure.
It is also called barotrauma which is injury caused by pressure changes.

Treatment involves the use of decongestants and analgesics (pain medication). Other aspects of treatment are (1) ear cleaning to reduce the pressure in the ear (2) valsalva maneuver- tilt head forward a bit, pinch the nose and close the mouth, gently try to blow out air- do this as the plane takes off or lands (3) avoid flying with a cold (4) chew gum, sip fluids, yawn as plane lands and takes off

There is also a type of headache that is associated with flying called airplane headache. It is thought to be related to the same changes in pressure along with other factors such as air quality, engine noise and stress.
The best treatment is unclear at the moment but the following are recommended - ice packs on the area that hurts the worse, ear plugs and possibly relaxation and meditation techniques

I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Michelle Gibson James 1 hour later
Thank you doctor Gibson,

As i have business meetings to attend at times have to travel even if i have cold.

Can u pls suggest possible options to take care of such instances.

Also while the take off & landing there is tremendous pressure above my ears & it starts from here & slowly moves to the back of my ear & then neck (back side).
This becomes very unbearable hence please suggest probable excercise for the same.

Also do provide your valuable suggestions wherever applicable over barotrauma please.

Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 7 hours later

You can consider the use of a decongestants ,both oral and nasal, and antihistamine when you have a cold.
The decongestants can be used even in circumstances where no cold is present.
Some persons also find topical nasal steroids to be helpful.

IF the pain remains, consider adding an analgesic(pain medication), the most commonly used would be in the NSAIDS ( such as ibuprofen/cataflam/voltaren).

Feel free to ask any other questions

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Michelle Gibson James 4 hours later
Thank you for your suggestions doctor.

Currently i am based out of Mumbai - India & temperature is around 26-30 during day & 13-20 degrees during night. I use OTRIVIN nasal drops to clear the congestion (from nose if any) & Cough syrup (locally available) for ease of breathing. Hope that is fine though this is not a permanent solution...

Are there any natural methods of treatment of such sickness apart from the once that you've already shared?

Also can u please suggest if in case (while flying - take off & landing or else) the pressure starts around my ears & continues what would be the quick solution at that point of time?

Is there a permanent cure for this since i suffer from cold through out the year & does my family health history anything to do with this?

I don't smoke neither do i drink...

Your suggestions are very helpful to me :)
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 8 hours later

The most commonly used methods are those suggested: drink alot of fluids to stay hydrated, chew gum, yawning, valsalva maneuver, use of a decongestant (oral and topical), use of a pain killer before flight.
There are no other methods that are usually recommended.

Unfortunately because there would always be a difference in pressure during flight there is no cure for the symptoms that you experience,only ways to reduce them.

Feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar

The User accepted the expert's answer

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