Barotrauma is the pain or discomfort that is felt with a difference in air or water pressure between the outside environment and the inside of the body.

Any part of the body that contains air can be sensitive to these pressures:

  • Ear (most common)—affecting structures in the middle ear
  • Sinus—air-filled facial sinuses surround the bones in the skull
  • Pulmonary (most critical)—lungs

The Ear
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Normally air moves easily between outside and inside of the ear, sinuses, and lungs, helping to maintain a balance of pressure. Imbalances may be created with:

  • Sudden or severe changes in surrounding pressure
  • Blockages in the body's air cavities

The imbalance of pressure causes the air inside your body to shrink or swell. This is what can cause pain and damage.