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What causes ear and neck pain in adults?

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Quick Answer

Meningitis, muscle strain, ear canal infection or a herniated disc are some possible causes of ear and neck pain in adults, according to WebMD. Pain in the ear, neck or jaw may also be due to grinding of the teeth, notes Healthline.

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Ear pain may not originate in the ear but may instead be referred pain from elsewhere in the body, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Some conditions that cause neck pain may additionally cause ear pain by proxy.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis generally include pain or stiffness in the neck, sore throat and severe headache, according to WebMD. Bacterial meningitis is a more serious condition than viral meningitis and requires immediate treatment with antibiotics. Milder conditions, such as muscle strain, may cause pain in the general area of the ear and neck. Muscle strain is common, and treatment involves applying ice to the affected area for 20 minutes each hour until the pain stops.

If the pain originates in the ear, it may be due to an ear canal infection. Antibiotic drops usually treat ear canal infections. Individuals with diabetes or weak immune systems are at a higher risk for developing malignant otitis externa, notes WebMD. In this condition, the infection spreads to other tissue beyond the ear canal, such as the bone at the base of the skull.

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