Miracle on Fourth Street

Funny things happened this week; adorable things spilled from the lips of my precocious preschooler. Definitely blog-worthy material. But I can’t remember any of it. All I can think about are the baby’s ears.

Our tiny Butter Curl had a string of ear infections really young. Each cold Peanut brought home from school meant congested ears then infected ears, then a tough decision between antibiotics and a ruptured ear drum. We tried everything to give him relief with each bulging tympanic membrane: warmed olive oil, mullein oil, a pillow elevating his mattress, massaging his ears and neck, bulb syringe to clear as much as possible from his nasal passages, avoiding the bulb syringe to keep nature handling the buildup in his sinuses. During every cold I monitored Butter’s ears with an otoscope and every time I watched the eardrum fill, then redden, then yellow and swell.

So after a ruptured eardrum in September I did lots of research into natural remedies, trying desperately to spare him the probable choices of prophylactic antibiotics or surgery for tubes.

I found anecdotal evidence that lengthy labors, posterior-facing babies, and vacuum extraction often means much higher rates of ear infections. (Butter was a 48-hour labor, posterior at the end, five hours of pushing, and an eventual vacuum extraction. Horrors for me, but potential lingering horrors for him if that process really did jack him up enough to block his ear drainage.) My online searches led me to the idea that chiropractors, craniosacral massage therapists, and osteopaths have gentle, simple treatments to release whatever damage the birth trauma exacted on wee heads and necks.

I didn’t believe it for a minute, but I had to try. A tiny baby in persistent pain and facing icky options and future hearing loss needed me to try.

So I found the practitioner most heralded by local moms for fixing ear infections: an osteopath trained in Britain and forced in the States to practice as a massage therapist. Insurance doesn’t cover her work. Of course. I’m going to pay a premium for voodoo while we’re pinching pennies. Figures.

After one visit the osteopath told me it should take a few visits but she could fix the tension that was blocking Butter’s ears. After three trips she said he was done; come back if he gets a cold and she’ll double check, but he should be fine.

He got a cold last week. His ears filled quickly, eardrum going from dark and reflective to grey and dull in a day. We went in and she said the illness brought out a lot of trauma under his right scapula (directly below the ear that was causing him so much trouble, though she didn’t know that). She massaged him and stretched him; then claimed his ears would now drain fine and we would probably never need to come back.

That night his ears looked worse. The next morning they were the same. By the next night they were back to normal. His ear drum was reflecting light again even though his nose was still congested.

Why has there been no large-scale study on the efficacy of chiropractic or osteopathic treatments on ear infections, especially ear infections that have no food allergy component and could be tied to birth trauma? Why are pediatricians not tracking the results even without a formal study? Ear infections are the most common reason for pediatric visits, aren’t they?

Can someone get on that? I’m going to write to the insurance company and the pediatrician and the ENT to whom she referred us. I want them to know, and you to know, that there might be a way around the awful choices of repeated rupture or medication or surgery for chronic ear infections in little people. I have nothing to sell, no way to profit from this information. But my little guy has avoided one course of antibiotics, another ruptured eardrum, and a talk about surgically implanting tubes in his ear. And I want other parents to have that.

I know Peanut said funny things this week, but surely a complete resolution of what would have been ear infection number four in four months, a complete reversal of a condition with a couple of noninvasive sessions…isn’t that better than cuteness?

14 thoughts on “Miracle on Fourth Street

  1. Allow me to be the first to comment on what an amazing parent you are. Bravo to you for your advocacy, your dedication, and your willingness to find creative solutions in the face of a world that thinks it knows the answers to almost everything. Your children are very lucky little people.

  2. Yay, yay, yay! For you and for Butter. What wonderful news.
    I am a total convert to osteopathy and cranio-sacral therapy, and brought both of my babies for a ‘head touch’ when they were itsy bitsy, just to work out any potential birth trauma. It’s also been great for me at different times, including a broken tailbone suffered in giving birth to #1.
    Anyways, I’m so happy to hear your news, and I have no doubt that Peanut will think of another cute thing or two to say so you can keep blogging.

  3. Wow, I wish you had done your homework for me a couple of years ago. My daughter inherited antibiotic allergies from me and so can take only a limited set of the less effective types for things like ear infections, of which she had many during her fourth and fifth years in particular. She began to develop a resistance to some of the antibiotics she could take. We were in the doctor’s office every couple of weeks (literally) with a fresh ear infection. We finally got tubes put in, and it worked, but a solution like what you found would have been preferable. Who’da thunk a scapula massage could fix an ear infection? Bravo.

  4. I had cranio-sacral therapy myself once, not because I actually believed it would do anything, but in order to help support a friend who was starting a business in it. I still don’t quite understand how it works, as she barely touched me… but it certainly had a very intense and measurable effect. I was amazed!

  5. I am a complete convert to osteopathic/chiropractic voodoo.
    Leila has been seeing the chiropractor since she was born, and it’s mind-blowing how immediate the results are. She gets a hard, bloated belly, can’t poop, and grunts like she’s in pain. The chiropractor adjusts her, and within an hour she is pooping up a storm. A storm pooper. Yes.

  6. AMAZING. I wish I’d had this information when my first daughter experienced one ear infection after another. I’m definitely passing this on, though.

  7. We are a house full of ear infections this week. Thank goodness we will be seeing the chiropractor next week :)
    What a well written post!! Thank you.

  8. I was in a car accident recently, and had to shuffle my achy self over to a chiropractor. It’s always a temporary relief, I’ve been in and out of chiros and massage/sports therapists for years because of my work. The accident last month whacked my neck, which creates migraines right behind my ear. I get cracked like the nut I am, but about 3 days later, I’m back to hurting and tension, then more migraines and headaches. Maybe every 3 days would be good for Butterball too to stave off the relief undoing itself.

  9. okay, first, I actually just cried that you sweet people read all the way through. Talk about post with limited appeal and WAY too long.

    jc, see if you can find an osteopath. I had results like yours with a chiro for some of my issues, but osteopaths have a whole different approach and, it seems to me, a different knowledge base. I really hope something helps because chronic pain really sucks the fun out of life. [sending you chee and glitter and spinal sniffy stickers.]

    Maria, I wish it were that easy. Ears clear, body starts teething again.

    Shawna, sorry ’bout the ear infections. Hope your family has high pain tolerance, because I can’t imagine what Butter would have been like with all those infections if he hurt as badly as some kids do.

    ck I wish I could have save One the pain. Poor thing.

    Dana, you’re hilarious. I’m glad chiro helps poor little girlie. Also, while I have you, hope your oldest’s bounce house bloody nose wasn’t my oldest’s fault.

    squadrato, I marveled at my only craniosacral, too. If I had the money I’d do it again.

    Daryl, your poor daughter. Let’s so this, though, for your family’s sake: let’s agree that maybe it wouldn’t have worked for her. At that age, the eustatian tubes point down, so poor drainage is not always the cause. Let’s pretend, just for your sweet family’s sake, that this research of mine would have been interesting but not useful to you. Mmmmkay? Cuz I don’t want this post to make any parents sad.

    Macondo, childbirth-induced broken tailbone is about as awful as I’ve heard. And another friend had the same injury. Damn, babies, why are you all breaking your mamas? Glad the osteopath helped, you poor dear.

    MacDougal, what a generous thing to say. Thank you. I’m trying really hard but I think every parent does, in their way. Mine is researching, being contrarian, and bucking the system. Hope it serves them at least some times, because it will undoubtedly piss them off a lot, too.

  10. I’ve only recently written a post about the frustrations of modern medicine after a less than satisfactory trip to a paediatrician (http://pennidrysdale.com/2010/11/blind-faith/). It’s a shame that medical doctors either aren’t aware of the benefits of alternative options, or too proud to suggest seeking something other than their prescriptions or surgery. We often blindly follow their advice…good on you.

  11. My oldest was born with clogged tear ducts. At 6 months old the ophthalmologist said we needed to do surgery which involved a whole lotta stuff I wasn’t willing to put my tiny baby through. We took him to a chiropractor who also did cranial sacral massage. Within about a month he had no more problems with his tear ducts. It truly is amazing what natural remedies can do. Glad Butter avoided surgery!

  12. SWEAR I left a comment on this before! Sheesh. C’mon universe.

    In any case, how very amazing! Never heard of such treatment before and sure could have used it back in the day of An Ear Infection Every Other Week. And yay that poor Butter isn’t suffering so much!!!

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