Headaches that are localized behind the ear aren’t as common as other types of headache pain. Before treatment can begin, the doctor must find out what is causing your pain and discomfort. In most cases, this type of pain can be limited to one of the following causes:
- Mastoiditis – an infection localized to the mastoid bone
- Occipital neuralgia – irritation or pressure that affects the occipital nerves
- TMJ syndrome – problems with the temporomandibular joint
Each of these conditions has symptoms that are unique, but headaches behind the ear tend to appear on all three lists.
Signs and Symptoms That Identify the Cause
If you are experiencing a fever along with the headache, the signs may point to an infection of some kind, normally mastoiditis. If occipital neuralgia is the culprit, the pain that starts behind the ear, may gradually work its way to other areas of the head and neck.
TMJ syndrome is often identified by the misalignment of the teeth and the popping of the jaw joint when you eat or speak. The headache behind the ear is often the result of inflammation and pressure placed on the structures in the area.
Diagnosing the Problem
There may be cases where it’s difficult to determine the exact cause of your headache pain, even with a thorough physical examination. If there is no sign of infection and your teeth and jaw pose no other symptoms, the doctor may recommend an MRI.
Headache pain that is localized behind the ear may not indicate a serious illness, but it shouldn’t be ignored either. If the pain persists longer than two or three days and recurs steadily over the course of a week or more, it’s in your best interest to seek medical attention to determine the exact cause.
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