FAQ

Lump in the throat, throat tightness: where does it come from?

The neck contains arteries, nerves and other structures that are vital for survival. A feeling of tightness in the front of the neck may have a relatively benign cause, or may indicate a problem with one or more of these structures. This article discusses the anatomy of the neck, as well as the different causes of tightness in the front of the neck. It also describes ways to prevent neck strain and advice on when to seek medical attention.

Overview of the neck

The neck is the part of the body that connects the head to the torso. The neck is home to a number of important structures, including:

– the trachea, which allows a person to breathe
– the vocal cords, which allow a person to speak
– the esophagus, or food pipe, which connects the mouth and the stomach
– the thyroid gland, which helps regulate the body’s metabolism
– the upper spine, or cervical, which connects the brain and the spine and supports the head

Causes of a lump in the throat

Below we list five potential causes of a tight throat sensation, along with the treatments associated with them.

Allergic reaction

Allergies are common. A potential symptom of an allergic reaction is a feeling of tightness in the throat. Other possible symptoms include

– difficulty speaking or swallowing
– shortness of breath or wheezing
– hoarsely
– cough
– dizziness
– hives, swelling or rash
– nausea or vomiting

Some of the most common allergy triggers are:
– foods, such as:
– peanuts
– tree nuts
– crustaceans and shellfish
– fish
– milk
– eggs
– preservatives
– medications, such as antibiotics
– latex

Insect bites, including:
of bees
wasps
hornets

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Anyone suffering from a severe allergic reaction should receive emergency medical attention. Without prompt treatment, the condition can be life-threatening. Long-term allergy treatment depends in part on the severity of the allergy and the likelihood that the person will come into contact with the allergen in the future.

Globus pharyngeus

Globus pharyngeus (GP) is a typically painless sensation of a lump in the throat. Although researchers don’t know the cause of this condition, the following factors may play a role:

– a foreign body in the throat
– spasms in the throat
– gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn
– sinus infections
– post-nasal drip
– anxiety

Apart from the sensation of a lump in the throat, other possible symptoms from the GP include:

– a feeling of tightness or suffocation in the throat
– itching in the throat
– feel the need to clear your throat often
– a cough that may or may not produce phlegm
– hoarsely

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The GP’s treatment will depend in part on whether there is an identifiable cause. For example, a person who has regular heartburn may be given medicine to control their heartburn.

If a doctor is unable to identify the cause of the condition, they may simply recommend avoiding possible triggers. Here are some examples:

– cigarette smoke
– alcohol
– caffeine
– swallow dry

In some cases, a person may be referred to speech therapists. According to a 2015 study, these therapies may help relieve certain symptoms.

Goitre

Goiter is the medical term for swelling of the thyroid gland. This butterfly-shaped gland is found at the front of the neck and produces hormones that help regulate metabolism.

A goiter does not always cause symptoms. However, the possible symptoms are:

– a feeling of tightness in the neck
– hoarseness
– difficulty swallowing and breathing
– coughing

Here are some of the potential causes of a goiter:
– iodine deficiency
– autoimmune thyroid diseases, such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease
– an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism
– a family history of goiters

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Goiter treatment

Some goiters may go away on their own. If a person’s symptoms are not severe, their doctor may recommend a period of watch or watchful waiting.

Stomach pains

Heartburn refers to a burning sensation in the chest or throat. They are the result of gastric acid leaking from the stomach into the esophagus.
Other symptoms of heartburn include

– a sour taste in the back of the mouth
– clearing of the throat and hoarseness
– a sensation of lump in the throat
– throat spasms
– to cough
– difficulty in breathing
– hissing
– nausea and vomiting

GERD is the medical term for frequent heartburn. It is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. The risk factors for GERD are:

– advanced age
– to smoke
– obesity
– have a sedentary job
– anxiety and depression
– eat fatty, oily or acidic foods
– eating meals close to bedtime

GERD treatment

Here are some home heartburn treatment methods:

– avoid oily, greasy or acidic foods
– eat smaller meals
– avoid meals or snacks at night
– elevation of the head of the bed
– stop smoking
– reducing alcohol consumption

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is the medical term for infection and inflammation of the tonsils. The most common causes of tonsillitis are the common cold virus and a type of bacterial infection called streptococcus.
Symptoms of tonsillitis are:

– fever
– swollen tonsils
– sore or sore throat
– tightness in the throat
– pain or difficulty swallowing

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Most of the time, tonsillitis will go away on its own. If necessary, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, or antibiotics to clear up a bacterial infection. In rare cases, doctors may recommend surgery to remove the tonsils.

Prevent a tightness in the throat

It is not always possible to prevent feelings of tightness in the throat, especially if a person cannot identify the cause. If the tightness is the result of an allergic reaction, try to avoid any known allergy triggers. If the symptom is due to goiter or heartburn, people may find that certain lifestyle changes help ease their symptoms.

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In some cases, tightness in the throat may be the result of an infection.

Diagnosis of throat tightness

There are many potential causes of tightness in the front part of the neck. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
The doctor will likely take a full medical history and perform a physical exam. He may feel the neck to check for signs of tenderness or numbness. He may also ask the person to move their head up and down and side to side to check the neck’s range of motion.

Tightness in the front part of the neck may be due to allergies, inflammation or infection. It can also occur in response to digestive disorders, such as heartburn or GERD. Some causes of tightness in the throat can go away without medical treatment. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor if the symptom is severe or persistent or worsens over time.

Sources

Acid reflux (GER & GERD) in adults. (nd).

Anderson, J., et al. (2020). Tonsillitis.

Can, AS, et al. (2020). Goiter.

Clarrett, DM, et al. (2018). Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Overview: Goiter. (2019).

Jones, D., et al. (2015). Globus pharyngeus: An update for general practice.

Roesch, ZK, et al. (2020). Anatomy, head and neck, neck.

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