It can hit anyone at any age – children and adults alike – and result in anything from mild discomfort to severe pain. We’re talking about congestion, that miserable clogged headachy feeling due to upper respiratory illness, ear infection, or allergies. It’s often due to inflammation and fluid in the Eustachian tube, a canal that connects the middle ear to the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity. The Eustachian tube’s job is to:
- balance pressure in the middle ear, keeping it equal with air pressure outside the body;
- protect the inner ear from nasal secretions;
- drain middle ear secretions into the area between the nasal cavity and upper throat.
When you experience congestion, a typical medical approach is to treat symptoms (e.g., with antibiotics, decongestants). A holistic approach includes natural medicines and Eustachian Tube Massage (ETM), which can alleviate congestion and the discomfort it causes by stretching the soft tissue that lines the tube. This helps reduce pressure and promotes release of fluid from the tube. You can perform ETM on yourself, or for a child.
- After washing your hands, use your index or middle finger to feel behind the ear lobe for a bony bump. With firm, steady pressure slide your finger down until it slips into a groove between the ear lobe and the jaw.
- Follow that groove down the neck with your finger, sliding down (with same steady pressure) until you reach the collar bone.
- For a child or small adult, it may help to tilt your head to the shoulder opposite the ear that you are massaging. (Ex: If massaging right side, tilt head to left shoulder)
- Repeat three to four times per side, about three times a day.
If symptoms are severe, ask your physician about the Modified Muncie Technique. This method involves massaging from inside the back of the mouth, and should be performed by a healthcare practitioner.
Giudice, L., “Otitis Media” as cited in Pizzorno, J. E. Textbook of Natural Medicine. (2013) St. Louis, M.: Elsevier. (chapter 195), 1678-1684.
Personal Communication: Eli Camp, N.D. 9 Jan 2017.
Medline.com “Eustachian Tube Function and Anatomy.” Accessed 10 Jan 2017: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/874348-overview
Channell, M., “Modified Muncie Technique: Osteopathic Manipulation for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction and Illustrative Report of Case.” J. Amer Osteopathic Assoc., (May 2008) 108, 260-263. Accessed 4 January 2016: http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2093698
Cunsolo, E. et al., “Functional anatomy of the Eustachian tube.” Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. (2010) Jan-Mar;23(1 Suppl):4-7. Accessed 10 Jan 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20152070
PubMed Resources for various Eustachian tube massage techniques, manual and using vibratory medical devices. Accessed 08 Jan 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=eustachian+tube+massage