There are certain parts of our body we expect to be a little sore after a challenging run — The quads will be tight, especially if you pulled a sprint finish out of the bag, the calves will be positively popping, and if you’re anything like me, your knees will sometimes give you a spot of grief, too.
This is, by and large, normal, but sometimes, we runners feel rather obscure reactions to our exercise that don’t quite add up. For instance, why on earth would our ears hurt during or after a jog?
Well, believe it or not, due to the fact there are a number of possible causes, this is a fairly common query. So, let’s put this mysterious phenomenon under the microscope and figure out what’s plaguing your poor lugs.
The Constriction Of Blood Vessels In The Ear
Although it sounds rather serious, the constriction of blood vessels isn’t an issue.
On the contrary, all blood vessels have a muscular layer that allows them to both expand and contract; however, if the blood vessels in our ears constrict past a certain point, it can be quite painful.
The reason you may be experiencing this during or after your run is that cold weather, intensive exercise, and high altitudes can trigger constriction. Combine all three of these stimulators, and you’ll no doubt feel some form of discomfort during your exercise.
Unless you’re willing to travel to lower ground to exercise, there’s not much you can do to prevent the effects of altitude on your ears, but wearing a cozy hat or headband will help reduce the pain when exercising in cold weather. Something like this TrailHeads moisture wicking ear band will be just the ticket!
If constriction of the vessels is caused by workout intensity alone, then I’d suggest taking your exercise down a couple of notches for a while.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… Acid reflux? What does that have to do with my ears?… but hear me out.
While acid reflux, or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), is usually associated with heartburn and feelings of indigestion, its effects are further-reaching than you may at first think.
This uncomfortable ailment can also trigger a sore throat and quite severe earaches, and being that exercise exacerbates acid reflux, it could well be the reason your ears are hurting post- or pre-run.
What’s more, if your acid reflux persists, it can cause some pretty nasty ear infections, the pain from which will intensify during and after exercise. If this is indeed the case, you’ll have to combat your acid reflux before returning to your favorite routes.
There are many ways in which you can do so, including eating slowly, wearing loose clothing, giving the smokes a break, and staying upright after a meal, but if you want to tackle the problem quickly, I’d recommend using some OTC meds such as Prilosec Omeprazole Delayed Release Acid Reducer.
Remember earlier when I mentioned that a jog in a chilly climate can cause the constriction of blood vessels in the ear? Well, that’s not the only way in which Jack Frost can cause trouble.
The cold itself can be so biting that it hurts the ears, regardless of what our blood vessels are up to, so, again, using ear-warming headbands or a running hat like this Tough Headwear beanie will solve your problem in a snap!
Many don’t realize it, but strong wind can be quite jarring to the ears, whether it’s freezing cold or absolutely scorching, so if you can see trees doing the Mexican Wave outside your window, consider donning a thin, warm weather headband before heading out for your run.
Music can be a real driving force in exercise, helping us to push beyond our established limits and better ourselves, but, depending on how you listen to said music, it can also have a negative impact.
In-ear headphones, or earbuds, as they’re often referred to, are quite invasive devices, and if they’re not tailored to the shape and size of your ears, they can increase pressure on the inner ear, amounting to some awful aches and pains, especially during exercise.
For some, even custom earbuds that feel comfortable at first will cause pain shortly thereafter.
In addition, it’s difficult to keep this kind of headphone clean, which can lead to dirt and bacteria becoming lodged in the ear canal, which will eventually lead to ear infections.
It’s also been noted that they can block the release of wax from the ear canal, which, over time, will lead to infection.
If you feel that it might be your inner-ear headphones causing the pain, I’d recommend checking out some bone conduction headphones, as they sit on top of, rather than inside, your ears. The AfterShokz Aeropex are particularly great for running, as they’re wireless and sweat-resistant.
Your Tunes Are Too Loud
You should never be listening to overly loud music when running in the great outdoors, as you won’t be aware of your surroundings.
You could be blissfully unaware of traffic, attackers, people trying to warn you of something, or wild animals, which is another reason bone conduction headphones are preferable for running, as they don’t block ambient noise.
But, disregarding all of those hazards, loud music is also damaging to the ear, which doesn’t always, but can coincide with physical pain. So, if you like to crank your tunes when you go for a run, consider lowering the volume a little, not just to relieve pain, but to stave off hearing loss.
I’ve hit you with quite a bit of information here, so your next port of call is to try to figure out which of these possible causes is responsible for your ear pain when you run.
If you don’t have heartburn, you can rule acid reflux out right off the bat. Suspect it’s the weather giving your lugs grief? Try running indoors or with ear-warming accessories. Do you normally run at a high altitude? Head somewhere closer to sea level and see what happens.
If that doesn’t help, there’s a good chance it’s your headphones/music setup. Why not go for a run without your music, or perhaps give some bone conduction headphones a whirl?
Should the problem persist, get your doctor on the case, and with any luck, they’ll have you fixed up and running pain-free in a jiffy!