I live in Canada and enjoy running outdoors for exercise. However, whenever I run in cooler temperatures (which for me is anywhere from about 10 to -10 degrees C), I get extreme pain in my ears soon after I start running (maybe 10 minutes into the run - sometimes less!). I always warm up and don't have issues in any other muscles or parts of my body, and I dress warmly, including a fitted headband that completely covers my ears.
The pain is debilitating and usually causes me to need to stop running and head home. It does not occur when I run indoors or in warm spring/summer weather. Sometimes it feels like intense pressure in my inner ear, and sometimes it feels like it is just behind my ear. Usually, my jaw also locks and tends to "pop" when I open my mouth. The symptoms take about 20 minutes to resolve. I should also mention that other than this pain, I feel fine while running - to my observation, it is not linked to fatigue.
I was wondering if there's anything I can do to stop this? I really love running but the pain is extreme.
How old are you?: 21
How long has this been going on?: More than a year
Check all symptoms you are currently experiencing:
Ear/ Nose / Throat
Describe associated symptoms not listed above:
Pain/pressure in both ears on exposure to cold weather while running, even when well-dressed. The pain is debilitating and has at times been severe enough to cause nausea. Does not occur if I am outdoors in the same temperatures while not exercising. However, ears are sensitive to cold in general and I am most comfortable in a hat or headband from November to March. A locked jaw accompanies the pain in my ears. Both resolve in ~20 minutes after coming indoors.
What have you done so far to remedy this condition? Please include tests and relevant studies here.
Wear a headband or skullcap while running. I have been told that I should put cotton balls in my ears but I am confused about why this would help and am more interested in understanding the cause of this issue.
Please list any medications you are currently taking (and dosage if known) :: None
When was your last menstrual cycle?: 3 weeks ago
Are you currently using or do you have a history of tobacco use?: No
Are you currently using or do you have a history of illegal drug use?: No
Please describe your alcohol consumption :: Rarely
HOW QUICKLY DO YOU NEED THIS TO BE ANSWERED?: Within the next few days
So that we can serve you best, please try to tell us your top three things you wish to be addressed in our response. You will likely get more than you ask for, but we wish to understand your priorities.
1. What is this?
2. Why does it happen?
3. What steps can I take to reduce or eliminate the symptoms?
Dear Canadian Runner,
I am struggling with this one. I did fine a link on WEB MD but I think the explanation, for what appears to be a fairly common syndrome, is less than satisfactory. My feeling is that your problem may be a combination of extreme sensitivity (because of your particular ear anatomy) of a Cranial Nerve, or, a cold-variant migraine, or, perhaps, some combination of these. Dr SWB is going to weigh in on this a little later today, and since this is right in his wheelhouse I think we will both learn something. Stand by, and thanks for your question.
MDSTAT DOC 1