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What Causes Neck Lymph Node Pain?

Castle Connolly Top Doctors

Lymph node pain in the neck can adversely impact your routine life. It’s usually a result of a bacterial or viral infection which can cause a swollen lymph node in the neck. In rare cases, swollen lymph nodes in the neck that cause you pain and discomfort might be a sign of cancer.

So what causes neck lymph node pain? Your lymph nodes (also known as lymph glands) are your body’s natural filter mechanism that traps bacteria and viruses before they can cause infections in your body. When antigens are present in your system, your lymphatic system responds to the inflammatory conditions with swollen lymph nodes, which can cause you to experience neck pain.

Causes of Lymph Node Pain in the Neck

Swollen lymph nodes along your neck can put you in a great deal of pain. These can be due to a number of infectious diseases (usually bacterial or viral) such as a viral throat infection. They can also be the result of non-infectious causes. These swollen lymph nodes along the neck come under a medical condition called lymphadenopathy. Alternatively, the condition is known as lymphadenitis if there’s an acute inflammation and swollen gland around these lymph nodes.

Acute infectious causes of swollen lymph nodes include adenovirus, enterovirus, influenza virus, streptococcus, and other pathogens. On the other hand, chronic infectious causes of lymphadenitis include EBV, HIV, and tuberculosis. Non-infectious inflammatory conditions caused by Kawasaki disease and Hodgkin lymphoma. can also lead to lymph node pain in the neck. Here are some of the most prevalent causes of swollen lymph nodes and neck pain:

Skin Abscess

An infective cause of lymph node pain in the neck may be the formation of abscesses or similar skin infections. A skin abscess is a sizable pus pocket that has developed immediately below the skin. It is brought on by bacteria that enter the skin through a minor cut and starts to grow there. White blood cells help the body combat the invasion by killing some diseased tissue while forming pus in the cavity that is left behind.

These abscesses are often accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, acute pain in the neck, fever, and body chills. For minor cases, the body’s immune system will take care of healing the abscess, but in some cases, the intake of antibiotics may be recommended by the doctor to prevent complications. A retropharyngeal abscess is a rare and life-threatening complication that may require urgent medical attention depending on the severity of neck pain.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that can cause lymph node pain in the neck, fatigue, tenderness of the skin, musculoskeletal pain, and even depression. Traumatic events such as a divorce, car accident, or mental stress may lead to fibromyalgia. If it’s genetically driven, the patient may experience neck pain and develop swollen lymph nodes even for normal touches. This pain is often accompanied by cloudy thoughts, severe headaches, and increased sensitivity to stimuli.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation of swollen lymph nodes and symptoms. Treatment solutions will aim to enhance the patient’s quality of life through painkillers, exercise, a better diet, and support for dealing with stressful situations. Patients who have neck pain and swollen lymph nodes due to fibromyalgia need to consult with their primary care doctor at the earliest.


Acute thyroiditis is a rare medical condition that can cause inflammation of the thyroid gland. This is usually due to radiation, trauma, infection, or a side-effect of medication. Patients with acute thyroiditis will experience sharp pain in front of the neck accompanied by swelling of normal nodes that are part of your lymphatic system. Having a sore throat, hoarse voice, fever, and feeling of being severely ill are common symptoms of this disease.

You should visit an ER right away as this may be a medical emergency. The doctors will diagnose your condition using thyroid function testing, blood tests, and imaging. Common treatment solutions for swollen lymph glands due to thyroiditis include antibiotics, stopping causative drugs, and supportive care.

Lymph Node Inflammation

When there’s an increased presence of inflammatory cells in the neck region, the lymph gland tends to swell and enlarge. An enlarged lymph node in the neck is usually a sign of an infection detected by your lymphatic system. Sometimes, this inflammation may occur for no apparent reason.

You may observe visible lumps and bumps on your neck that might be causing you pain. Fever and weight loss are common symptoms associated with lymph node inflammation. If you think your lymph nodes should be examined, talk to your doctor about it. Use a warm, wet compress on the region to be treated to hasten the healing process.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome (also known as chronic myofascial pain) is a common cause for neck pain around the lymph nodes. This condition can cause you to feel pain at a different part of your body when pressure is applied to certain muscles in your body. Myofascial pain is usually a result of overuse of muscle, muscular injury, poor posture, tension, or stress which can lead to a habitual tightening of the affected muscles.

The scar tissues in the overused muscles are known as trigger points as they can trigger pain when stimulated. Pain that worsens over time and the inability to sleep are common symptoms of myofascial pain. You need to consult with your medical provider at the earliest as the myofascial pain syndrome can develop into fibromyalgia.

Causes of Lymph Node Pain in the Neck

Symptoms Associated with Neck Lymph Node Pain

The baseline symptom of having lymph node pain in the neck region is swollen nodes that are the size of kidney beans and are tender to touch. Depending on the cause of your neck pain in the lymphatic system, other symptoms include:

Swollen lymph nodes that cause neck pain usually return to normal when the infection subsides. You may need to consult a doctor if the lymph node inflammation has appeared for no apparent reason, has a hard consistency when you touch them, and continues to enlarge beyond 4 weeks.

Treatment Options for Neck Lymph Node Pain

Treatment options recommended for neck pain due to swelling of lymph nodes usually depend on the specific cause. A healthcare provider may recommend the following set of treatment solutions in case of intensive swelling in the neck:

Preventive Measures for Lymph Node Pain in the Neck

There are a number of preventive measures you can take to avoid getting an infection and stop the symptoms of lymphatic inflammation. Here are some of the most proven preventive care strategies that medical professionals recommend for patients at risk of getting neck pain due to a lymph node inflammation:

Get Quality Lymph Node Treatments and Neck Pain Solutions at New York Pain Care

A lymph node enlargement in the neck may require urgent medical attention depending on the cause. At New York Pain Care, we strive to help patients get back to living pain-free as quickly as possible. Our expert staff members specialize in surgical and non-surgical methods to reduce neck pain caused by an enlarged node or lymph node swelling due to an infection.

With every procedure carried out with cutting-edge procedures and technologies, we see to it to place a high priority on the security and comfort of the patient. Visit our website now to find out more about our offerings. To schedule a consultation with one of our spine surgeons, get in touch with us today.

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Page Updated on Aug 11, 2022 by Dr. Hosny (Interventional Spine Specialist) of New York Pain Care
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