Ear, nose, and throat clinics are full of kids waiting to have their tonsils whipped out, but what about if you have a sore throat and neck pain as an adult? Does recurring throat and neck pain also necessitate surgery? If you’re suffering from chronic, severe, or recurring bouts of pain in the neck and throat then it’s time to see your physician and find out what’s going on.
Common Causes of Neck and Throat Pain
The majority of cases of neck pain, which can cause referred throat pain, are due to sudden twisting movements that strain the muscles in the neck. Muscles may cramp up, become spasmodic or inflamed and result in pressure on the throat, cervical nerves, and even the trachea and oesophagus. The persistent feeling of a lump in the throat isn’t always because of anxiety, it may also be due to nerve impingement in the cervical spine.
Pinched nerves in the neck may also cause a sore throat and neck pain. Nerves can be compressed due to cervical spinal stenosis from a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis, an autoimmune issue like Rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis causing subluxation of the spine, or even a traumatic incident such as a car accident or fall causing whiplash.
A number of other conditions, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can all cause changes in the anatomy of the neck that may induce throat and neck pain. Polyps on the vocal cords, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck, or glands in the neck can be responsible for a painful throat and neck. In such cases, your physician is likely to prescribe anti-inflammatories, painkillers, and possibly even antibiotics if an infection is detected.
Causes of Sore Throat and Neck Pain
Other causes of neck and throat pain may include inflammation from tissue damage inside the windpipe or oesophagus, perhaps from inhaling smoke or other irritant, or even from swallowing spiky foodstuffs, hot liquids, or foreign objects. Some medications can cause a reduction in secretions in the mouth, leading to a dry throat that is more vulnerable to tissue damage and which may induce coughing that further irritates and inflames the membranes inside the throat. A condition called Barrett’s oesophagus may also be the cause of sore throat and neck pain as this condition sees chronic tissue damage in the oesophagus as acid reflux occurs over and over again. The repetitive trauma results in precancerous changes in the cells lining the oesophagus and patients may go on to develop throat cancer.
Laryngeal Carcinoma – When a Sore Throat and Neck Pain Means Cancer
In rarer cases, a tumor in the throat or neck is responsible for the pain. This can include tumors of the larynx, thyroid gland, in the cervical spine, or elsewhere in the anatomy of the neck. Throat cancer is usually a term that refers specifically to laryngeal carcinoma, cancer of the larynx (the voice box), but many use it to describe tumor development in other areas of the neck, such as the pharynx or the top of the oesophagus. Throat cancer is more common in those who smoke, or drink heavily, and in men. Most cases of throat cancer occur in those between 50 and 70 years of age, with 64-66 the most common age at which a diagnosis of throat cancer is made.
Diagnosing Throat Cancer
Cancer in the throat can be particularly difficult to cut out due to the complex array of nerves, muscles, ligaments, glands, and tissues in the area, which is why catching it early is extremely important. Luckily, throat cancer is also one of the forms of cancer likely to be spotted early as it can induce symptoms much faster than many other deep-seated cancers. If you have any of the following symptoms accompanying a pain in the throat and neck then it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately:
- A hoarseness to the voice (especially where it persists and progresses)
- A persistent feeling of a lump in the throat, or something lodged that can’t be cleared
- An actual lump in the throat, visible and palpable
- Sore throat and neck pain that is worsened by swallowing and which may sperad up to the ear and head
- Breathing problems, straining for breath and feeling short of breath
- Problems swallowing, particularly where this persists and gets worse
- Halitosis (bad breath) for no other discernible reason
- Coughing up blood, or smelly, thick, purulent sputum.
Anyone with these symptoms should consult their physician right away. A sore throat and neck pain may simple be the result of sleeping awkwardly or taking a blow to the neck during soccer practice but these could also be early warning signs of throat cancer.