Eagle Syndrome or silent reflux: which is causing me headaches, neck pain & sore throat ?

This article is a follow up of the blog post where I write about ear & neck pain when turning head, constant headaches, constant tinnitus, persistent sore throat without so much as one little sign of improvement in the last nine years.

I wrote that article a couple of years ago, and since then, hundreds of thousands of people have read it. It is a real number: hundreds of thousands !!
So, now that I have a lead, some hope on a possible solution to that problem or at least an explanation to what it is that has made my life so miserable during the past 9 years, the least I can do is to share this with you.

Like you, I have searched online so many times, just to find out that so many people have the same condition, the same symptoms, ask the same questions, and nobody never has answers.

Amazing, right? Nobody, ever…

And while what is happening to me today is only a “good feeling” and not the solution to my problems (yet), I feel that it is essential to share it, because maybe some of you can learn from it and not make the same mistake I’ve made.
And since that mistake has ruined so many years of my life, if any of you can benefit from this, good for them.

What I’m saying here is: if a doctor can’t find a solution to your problem, don’t give up: another one will.

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3 weeks ago, I went to see a new doctor in a new practice.
I finally figured out that doctors from one hospital have access to your medical records, and after several years, they all know you. They get used to you. While you still go there in search of answers, they don’t see you as someone who’s in pain anymore. They see you more like, part of the environment, part of the furniture, as they say in french.

So, this one was an ear nose & throat specialist in private practice, not a regular hospital.
Actually, I have seen an ear nose & throat doctor like 3 years ago, she examined my throat and despite my complaints, did not feel the need to investigate any further.
But this new one…she almost immediately told me to do a CT Scan of the neck & throat area, + a gastroscopy.

The CT scan would show if there were any issues with my throat or front part of the neck, the gastroscopy procedure, well , she told me there was the possibility that my problems are due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or silent reflux.

She suspected that after I told her that my pain symptoms were worse when waking up in the morning, and it turns out that silent reflux and GERD often happen at night, because the body position helps acidity make its way back from the stomach to the throat and promote inflammation that is likely to cause many of the problems that I was complaining about.

So, a few days later, I went for the CT scan, it’s no big deal really, nothing to be scared about, and a few more days after that, I underwent the gastroscopy procedure.

And this was no picnic party! They stick a tube with a camera into your mouth and you have to swallow it.
With that, they can see what’s going on in your stomach and your esophagus.

So they told me that there was nothing wrong with my stomach or my esophagus, except that it is wide open (as opposed to retracted, which is actually what prevents the gastric acid reflux to go back to the throat, in a normal condition).
They gave me a prescription, Pandomed 40mg, but told me to wait for the results of the CT scan, and decide with the ENT (ear nose & throat) doctor, whether I should take the Pandomed or not.

Surprisingly, I felt a lot better for the rest of the day, and even part of the day after that. This was due to the spray they used as an anesthetic for my throat.

And so this morning, I had an appointment with the ENT.

It turns out that the CT scan shows that I have Eagle Syndrome. In short, Eagle Syndrome is a condition where a tendon is longer that it should and compresses nerves in an area below the ear, causing inflammation & pain.

Although Eagle Syndrome is supposed to be a rare condition, the ENT said it does not necessarily cause problems so what is blurry about Eagle Syndrome, is the fact that it may or may not be the cause of the pain in the neck, the headaches, the tinnitus and the sore throat.

Quick Q&A about ES

What kind of doctor do you go to for Eagle Syndrome ?
An Ear Nose & Throat doctor

How is Eagle Syndrom diagnosed ?
CT scan.
I’m not sure if an MRI is really useless in this case, but what I can tell, is I ‘ve had an MRI of the brain which was still showing the area below the ear where the ES is supposed to be located. Then I ‘ve had an MRI of the front cervical region which also shows the area below the ear where ES is supposed to be & both MRI did not show any sign of it.
So, CT scan, definitely.

And now, here I am… for years, I had no idea of what was ruining my life, and today, I have 2 possible causes, both of them can be treated, but they require a little more patience.

So, here’s what’s going to happen: I’m going to take the treatment for the silent reflux, for 2 monthes and see if my condition improves.
If not, I will go back to the ENT, and I will have a surgery, to treat the Eagle Syndrome.

During the past 9 years, I have had so many doctors appointments, MRI’s, and they all turned out to be negative (not useless because some of them ruled out conditions like throat cancer or brain damage) but I kept searching for an answer.
I’m still ready for another disappointment, but that gastroscopy procedure, the silent reflux thing, the Eagle Syndrome…all of this makes so much sense, something’s got to get out of that, right ?

July 2017 update: my condition has improved!

So I’ve been under silent reflux treatment for more than one month, and I’m finally getting better.

Before & after Antibiotics treatment: Pantomed 40mg 1x / day

During Antibiotics treatment: Pantomed 40mg 2x / day

Antibiotics plan during 10 days: Amoxicilline 1000mg 2x / day

Clarithromicyne: 500mg 2x / day

Antibiotics treatment was finished 10 days ago, I believe my condition is stable now and I can write about it.

Moreover, I had a consultation with the ENT today and she looked at my throat and said the level of inflammation has significantly decreased, which explains why I’m getting better. 

What’s improved ?

  • Sharp pain below ears (left & right) when turning head: GONE!
  • Sharp pain below chin right side: GONE!
  • Constant pain in right shoulder blade, especially when turning head to the left: almost GONE & still improving.

Basically, all sharp pain symptoms which have made my life so complicated for the last 8 years are gone after just one month of Pantomed + Antibiotics

Helicobacter pylori

It’s a bacteria, living in the stomach, responsible for several stomach conditions such as ulcers, inflammation, gastritis and more (read about Helicobacter pylori on Wikipedia)

My ENT’s theory was that this Helicobacter pylori in my stomach could be responsible for silent reflux and silent reflux could be the cause of inflammation in my throat, which in turn could be the cause of my neck pain and constant headaches.

Hence the antibiotics to kill the Helicobacter pylori and the Pantomed to treat the reflux.

Consequently, inflammation in my throat is decreasing, and so does the pain. It’s as simple as that.

There’s hope now

Not everything has gone, though.
I still have stiff neck, mild headaches a tension headaches (the tension is quite intense, the pain level is acceptable).
I also still have ringing in my ears.
The ENT recommends another two months of Pantomed treatment + targeted physical therapy to improve motion range and decrease neck muscle tensions.
This should bring me more benefits and by the end of August, we’ll see each other again and think of what’s next.

So, a lot less pain and some hope that this condition that has been going on for eight years could finally come to an end, that’s a real life-changer…

4 thoughts on “Eagle Syndrome or silent reflux: which is causing me headaches, neck pain & sore throat ?”

  1. I’ve also been searching for a few years for a similar problem. I have constant pain & tightness below my ear where the SCM meets my skull and radiating pain and tightness down my shoulders. I even have inflammation on the inside of my jaw that can be noticed toward the back of my mouth. I found some relief in laser therapy, but no cure. It’s been confirmed that I have a hiatal hernia that allows silent reflux to wreak havoc if I’m not careful. But like you, treatment didn’t help with my neck pain.

    I recently saw a dentist thinking it could be due to unknown clenching, etc. He found an infection below a tooth that had previously had a root canal and another root canal that failed to clear it up. He thinks this is what’s causing my inflammation and pain. Though I’ve seen other dentists, oral surgeons, ENTs, physical therapist, chiropractors, gastroenterologist, etc. At least this has some evidence behind it. I’ll be having a consult next week for treatment. I’m curious to know how things are going for you at this point. Please post updates when you can.

    • Hey Phil,
      I’m almost done with a 10 days antibiotics treatment and I’ll post an update when I’m sure that the outcomes are effective or not.

      So what I can tell you ‘unofficially’, is that there are some serious signs of improvements, however, they are kind of masked because of the ringing in my ears which doesn’t seem to get any better.
      But so far, the pain below the ear to which you are referring (one of my symptoms exactly) has improved by far. And by far, I mean it’s still tight when I turn my head but nothing like before, where it was like a constant stabbing, 24/7.

      There is also this painful area in my chin (right side, it’s really like below the tongue). it feels like a swollen gland but the CT Scan didn’t show anything, and this one (which I actually thought was responsible for the whole thing) has also improved by far!
      10 days ago, it used to trigger a sharp pain just by touching it and today, I really have to scratch hard with my finger to trigger some pain but again, nowhere near what it used to be.

      Still unofficially, I realize in the last couple of days that I would fall asleep like within 5 minutes (instead of like an hour) and this morning, I woke up at 7h30 am, almost 8 hours uninterrupted sleep and I can’t remember last time that happened.

      So this is where I am now, hoping for more improvements (escpecially on the ringings in my ears) or at least, for the current condition to stabilize once the treatment is over.

      So, why would antibiotics have anything to do with these symptoms in the first place ?
      Well the ENT seems to think that this could be a bactiria, triggering the reflux.
      I haven’t talked to her yet, I’m waiting for the antibiotics treatment to be over to schedule the next appointment.

      Another lead, is, if you google any of your symptoms + bacteria, you will probably end up reading about Lyme disease if you haven’t yet.


      By the way, my current medication plan is:
      Pantomed 40mg for the silent reflux, 2X/day
      Antibiotics: Amoxicilline 1000mg, 2x/day / Clarithromycine 500mg, 2x/day
      For 10 days

      I’m also curions about the outcome of your consultation, so please post if you can.

      • That’s great that you’ve been seeing positive results! I just saw my endodontist yesterday and he did a deep 3D scan of a few of my teeth. Turns out I have a crack deep in one of my teeth and an infection living below it. This is very close to a nerve and any drainage follows the nerve up my jaw and then back down my neck. He thinks that my lymph nodes are hardening due to such activity and this is putting pressure on my muscles, nerves and parotid gland. Not much can be done about a cracked tooth other than an extraction. I will only find out afterward the procedure if this is the source of all my neck & jaw pain. Seems to me that you could have a similar problem with a different source, if any of your many lymph nodes are enlarged and pressing on anything, you could have a chronic problem, and if antibiotics are taking the strain off of them, that might be why you’re experiencing relief. I can only speculate though! If my extraction doesn’t ultimately resolve my issue, I’ll definitely look into Lyme disease. I know that disease hides really well and is very hard and expensive to confirm. Let’s hope that’s not the case! Keep me updated!

        • It’s an interesting theory and I’m really curious about the outcome because I’ve been suspicious with one of my tooth for a while myself, but i never thought of an endodontist to check it out (I was thinking stomatologist actually).
          Let me know how it goes!

          I have scheduled an appointment with the ENT next monday, to follow up the antibiotics treatment.

          There is no improvement since the last time I posted but I’m happy to notice the sharp pain below my ears hesn’t come back.

          Oh yeah actually there is some improvement. Something really disturbing because I can’t figure out the mechanics, but still, good news.

          My right foot has been numb for years, after a lumbar disc herniation, the sciatic nerve has suffered. With time, it has recovered by like 80% then stopped recovering. On the last day of the antibiotic treatment, I realized it was back! No more discomfort there, no more tingeling in my foot either, I can wear any shoes I want now.

          I suppose the antibiotics have worked their magic on inflammation at the sciatic nerve but that’s all I can say.

          Maybe I should consult a pediatrist to cure my headaches ? 😉

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