Ear, Nose & Throat

Ear cartilage pain: 10 Causes and 6 Remedies

Ear cartilage pain can trouble us a lot and disturb us in day to day life. So, let’s learn all the possible causes, and remedies or treatments of ear cartilage pain.

The ears are one of the most vital organs in the human body, without which it would be impossible to process sound or effectively communicate. The human ear is made up of the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.

Their function is to funnel sound into the ear, transform sound into nerve impulses, and send information to the brain respectively. The outer ear which is the openly visible part of the ear, otherwise known as the pinna, is made up of elastic matter known as cartilage, skin and other extremities.

Despite the ear serving the same function for all humans, the shape of the outer ear varies from one person to another. Some ear shapes usually are the butt of jokes due to their uniqueness while other ear shapes get zero attention since they resemble those of the majority.

The outer ear’s skin and cartilage are vulnerable to injury just like any other tissues in various parts of the human body.

Ear cartilage pain is a response to an injury or affliction in the ear due to various causes. Ear cartilage pain can be sharp or mild depending on the severity of the affliction and is very often accompanied by the discoloration of the outer ear, characterized by a distinct redness around the ear cartilage skin area.

Ear cartilage pain is brought about by an inflammation which could be a reaction to a foreign body in your system. In most cases patients suffering from ear cartilage pain experience a lot of discomfort, with the pain eventually subsiding, upon treatment of the underlying problem. The following are some of the factors or causes of ear cartilage pain.

Causes of Ear Cartilage Pain:

ear cartilage pain
Ear cartilage pain
Image source: md-health.com
Piercing of the Ear:

Ear piercing has been a fashion statement for a long time, observed by both regular people and people or constantly in the public eye such as celebrities.

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Not only has ear piercing been a fashion statement, but it has also been a huge part of the cultural, religious and traditional practices of the indigenous people of Africa, Eurasia, and America. Ear piercing although easy on the eyes, may have negative effects.

This is because the open wound created by the ear piercing is vulnerable to bacterial infection, especially around the ear cartilage area. This infection causes an ear cartilage inflammation characterized by burning pain. The pain is usually exacerbated when the patient goes to bed and lies on the affected side.

Traumatic Injury:

An injury can also cause ear cartilage pain to the outer ear due to blunt force trauma such as; a blow sustained in a brawl, blow sustained while participating in contact sports such as American football, Soccer, Rugby, volleyball, and boxing.

The injury may also be due to trauma caused by sharp objects such as; cuts and lacerations to the outer ear. These injuries are likely to bring about a sharp pain in outer ear cartilage.


Ear cartilage pain can also be experienced after surgery. Most of the time, surgery carried out on the external part of the ear is cosmetic. These operations are mainly aimed at correcting protruding ears.

One such operation is known as Pinnaplasty or Octoplasty, which involves remodeling the ear cartilage to create the missing folds in the ear and bring it closer to the patients head.

Another procedure is known as Ear splinting, this is mostly carried out on babies under the age of 6 months and involves resetting the soft ear cartilage and putting in place a splint to maintain the ear’s new position. Ear cartilage pain is likely to be experienced in the aftermath of these procedures.

Colds and Coughs:

Ear cartilage pain can also be due to cold and coughs. A persistent cough or a runny nose is not only an irritant that ruins your mood; it can also lead to an infection in the outer ear. This ailment can not only lead to pain, but also to hearing impairment since the external ears are the sound receptors and do not function correctly during infection.

Exposure to Extreme Conditions:

Extreme climatic conditions can also cause ear cartilage inflammation. Getting adjusted to a different environment can be tough, especially for a person from the tropics who has to deal with the cold conditions of a polar or temperate zone. Extremely cold conditions can lead to ear cartilage pain.

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This mostly occurs since people tend to cover all the other parts of their bodies except the facial and ear areas during cold conditions. Sun-bathing lovers are not spared either, excessive exposure to sunlight can lead to sunburn; which may bring about ear cartilage pain. Moderation seems to be the solution here like it is in most things.


Ear cartilage pain can also be caused by Perichondritis which is a condition that affects the soft tissue surrounding the ear cartilage known as Perichondrium. This condition is characterized by the eventual inflammation and pain of the ear cartilage if not addressed early enough.

Physical Strain:

The physical strain caused accessories such as headbands can bring about sore ear cartilage. Long hours of leaning a telephone against your ear can also bring about ear cartilage pain.

These days, you no longer have to lean a telephone against your ear to communicate. There are Bluetooth and ear-phone solutions that can help with that, along with phone features such as speaker-phones that can spare you the strain.

Autoimmune Disorders:

Auto-immune disorders such as Relapsing Polychondritis can also cause ear cartilage pain. Relapsing Polychondritis is an affliction that brings about the inflammation of cartilage throughout the patient’s body.

This inflammation is usually more highly pronounced in the ears, nose, nose, eyes, and throat. The severity of this affliction varies from person to person, and no cure for it exists at the moment. The symptoms of Relapsing Polychondritis can, however, be controlled by medication.

Chemical Irritants:

Another probable cause of ear cartilage pain is chemical irritants. Chemical irritants may come about from certain soaps applied to the ear, certain lotions as well as health-care products that drip to the ear. Ear cartilage inflammation can also be brought about by chemicals used in cleaning hearing aids for people with hearing impairment.

Skin Disorders:

Skin conditions can also cause ear cartilage pain. Such skin ailments include; white-heads and black-heads. These are rashes that appear on a patient’s skin. They may not cause a lot of pain normally, but that changes when you lean your ear on the pillow while sleeping.

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These whiteheads and blackheads are supposed to be detached from the skin as soon as they are visible to eliminate any chances of them growing to become a bigger menace.

Now that we have the probable causes of ear cartilage pain well spelt out let’s explore some of the remedies that can see of this nagging ailment.

Remedies for Ear Cartilage Pain:

Treatments might vary, based on the severity of the condition. At times treatment may be dependent on addressing underlying issues that cause the symptoms of ear cartilage pain.


Antibiotics are one option for resolving sore ear cartilage. Antibiotics neutralize bacteria that cause infections while also quelling the swelling in the ear cartilage.

Surgical Pressure:

In case of a severe infection in the ear’s soft tissue and ear cartilage, surgery may be required to drain out the pus accumulated due to the infection.

Cold Compress:

Ear cartilage pain brought about by sunburn, can be treated or quelled by a cold compress. Application of ice in the affected area at least twice a day will reduce the pain considerably.

Treatment of Cold and Cough:

At times ear cartilage inflammation may be brought about by coughs and colds. Treatment of these coughs and colds will alleviate the pain and bring about healing.

Treatment of Ear Piercing Symptoms:

Symptoms of ear cartilage pain brought about by ear piercings can be treated by certain handy home remedies. You can treat this by;

  • Removing the piercing three times a day and washing with resistance alcohol
  • Wiping the pierced ear lobe on either side to with buds or cotton balls to wipe away the applied alcohol
  • Apply antibiotic gel on the piercing pole before reinserting it into earlobe. This will accelerate the healing process.
Treatment of Skin Problems:

Symptoms brought about by skin conditions such as whiteheads and blackheads can be treated by; wiping the affected area using a soft cloth dipped in hot water. An extractor tool can be used to pull out the white and black-heads from ear cartilage.

Eliminating these heads will also see off sore ear cartilage inflammation. Forcing the black and white heads out may also cause complications that may aggravate the symptoms of ear cartilage pain. So, you are urged to exercise caution and restraint during the exercise.

  1. http://standardfirstaidcourses.ca/ear-cartilage-pain/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/picture-of-the-ear#1

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  1. Can cartilage pain be caused by having dental work done on the side of the ear that hurts. i.e. The injection of medicine to dreading the nerve in the back of the jaw?

    1. Yes, ear pain can be caused due to any problems with your teeth like abscesses, etc due to nerve involvement. Sometimes, ear pain or numbness can be caused by local anesthesia given during dental treatment too. If it’s caused by local anesthesia, it will spontaneously subside in a few days. But, if it’s caused by any dental problem, you need evaluation by a Dentist. Hope this helps.