Did you know there’s a link between sore throats and neck pain? It’s common to experience both neck pain and a sore throat when you’re feeling sick, and these symptoms can range from mild and manageable, to very severe and painful. Since the neck and throat are close together, any illness or injury that affects one will likely have an effect on the other as well.
One of the most common causes of a sore throat and neck pain is a bacterial or viral infection. This could be in the tonsils, the esophagus, or the trachea, and an infection will contribute to painful swelling in the neck and throat. The most common infections are a cold or flu, tonsillitis, strep throat, and mononucleosis.
When you have an infection, the body triggers its natural immune response, signaling to the lymph nodes to produce more white blood cells to fight the infection. The lymph nodes will also filter and collect harmful particles.
All this heightened activity and blood flow leads to swollen lymph nodes. The swelling places added pressure on the throat, and can cause neck pain. Once the infection has cleared, either on its own, or by taking antibiotics, the sore throat and neck pain will disappear, and the lymph nodes will return to normal.
Allergies are a common cause of both sore throats and neck pain. Airborne allergens, such as pollen, pet dander, or mold, as well as food allergens, can cause a sore throat and severe neck pain. Allergies cause a dry, itchy throat and neck pain, as well as:
- A stuffy nose
- Sneezing or a runny nose
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Tingling in the mouth or throat
- Swelling in the lips
- Excessive fatigue
Symptoms will persist as long as the allergen is in the air, or you continue to eat the allergen, and only when the allergen is removed will the sore throat and neck pain disappear.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Another cause of a sore throat and neck pain is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux. When food particles, fluids, or stomach acids travel up to the throat, it can cause both a sore throat and neck pain. Other GERD symptoms include:
- The sensation of having a painful lump in your throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- A horse voice when you try to speak
- A dry cough
Treatment options for GERD include modifying your diet to include more lean meats, vegetables, and fruits. Acid reflux can also be controlled through weight loss, and avoiding eating just before bed. Other treatments include medication.
Did you know that a tumor could cause a sore throat and neck pain? In fact, an ongoing sore throat is one of the symptoms of a cancer of the neck or head. Other symptoms of a tumor are:
- A sinus infection
- Swelling in the jaw
- Experiencing pain when swallowing
- Having a lump on the head or neck
- A numbness in the muscles of the face or neck
Tumors are very rare, and if you have a sore throat or neck pain, you most likely don’t have cancer. In fact, the annual diagnosis of head and neck cancers is only around 53,000 people, according to the National Cancer Institute. If you do have a tumor, surgery is the best treatment option to remove the tumor and relieve your symptoms.
When to Visit An ENT
If you have a sore throat and neck pain, you’re likely suffering from a common cold, and after a few days you’ll feel better. You should visit your doctor or ENT if your symptoms are very severe, or persist for more than a few days. If your throat or neck are very sore and painful, and home remedies don’t bring any relief, you should seek medical help.
The ENT will perform a physical exam to check for swelling, lumps, redness, or fever. They’ll also ask if you have trouble swallowing, have severe headaches, or experience any numbness in the face or limbs. They may also order blood work or follow up tests to verify the cause of your symptoms before suggesting a treatment option.
If you have a sore throat and neck pain, rest as much as possible, drink lots of fluids, and take over-the-counter medications. Your symptoms should clear in just a few days.