I saw Max aged 3 when his right ear was literally weeping pus. Max’s mother told us that this was the fifth time in the space of one year that he had had this condition. Prior to his runny ear, Max had been ill with a fever and had cried a lot. When his ear began to run you could see Max perk up and once more become the happy child he normally was. The doctor had prescribed antibiotics a few times, but Max appeared not to respond, at least not with an improvement to his ear condition. But he did have complications in the form of diarrhea and stomach ache.

That was the reason for Max’s doctor to refer him to the ear, nose and throat specialist, who diagnosed fluid behind his eardrum. The only solution in his view was to drain the fluid by placing tubes in his ear.

Osteopaths take a different view. A short explanation about anatomy enables us to see the problem more clearly.

Behind the eardrum there are ossicles that detect vibrations and pass them via a nerve to the brain so that we can hear sound. This system lies in the inner-most ear canal, which is also called the Eustachian tube. The wall of the tube is lined with a mucous membrane that produces a continuous stream of fluid. This is a completely normal process. It goes wrong when the Eustachion tube is no longer able to carry the fluid to the pharynx. The pressure in the tube increases, the increase in fluid is a breeding ground for bacteria to multiply and a middle-ear infection can occur. Pressure in the middle-ear is very painful and the inflammation causes fever and illness.

In this case, when Max’s ear started weeping the pressure behind the eardrum was relieved, which meant a reduction in pain. In fact, the ear, nose and throat specialist wanted to create an opening in the ear drum so that fluid could drain away through the tubes that would be inserted via an operation. But looking at the ear’s function and the anatomy of the middle-ear, it is a better option for osteopaths to improve the natural draining of the middle-ear. With osteopathic techniques applied to the skull, the drainage of fluid in the middle-ear can be sufficiently improved to a degree where an operation is often no longer necessary.

The treatment is often repeated one more time and sometimes a few months later one more time. In support and as a means of prevention, we also teach children to sniff or forcefully inhale through their noses so that the drainage of the middle-ear can be optimally seen.