Doctors agree that there is a close link between sore throats and neck pain. The throat and neck are intertwined, and pain in the muscles of the neck can affect the throat. In the same way, a swelling in the throat, or a sore throat, can affect the neck, and cause neck pain. When you’re feeling sick, either with a common cold or flu, you’ve probably noticed that you have both a sore throat and neck pain. Illnesses that affect either the throat or the neck will affect the other.
A common cause of a sore throat, along with flu symptoms and neck pain, is an infection. Both bacterial and viral infections can lead to painful swelling in the throat or the tonsils, and this swelling often leads to neck pain. Infections such as a common cold or flu, strep throat, or tonsillitis, can all cause very sore throats and a lot of neck pain.
Infections trigger your body’s natural immune response, producing more white blood cells to attack the infection. The lymph nodes on the sides of your neck, right under your jaw, produce these cells, and the area swells as more oxygen-rich blood is directed to the lymph nodes in order to fight the infection. The lymph nodes will also filter out any harmful particles in the blood, and all this increased activity will lead to a sore throat and neck pain.
Infections will often pass on their own, but more severe infections are treated with antibiotics.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Sore throats and neck pain can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly called acid reflux. Stomach acids, fluids, or even food particles can travel from the stomach back up the esophagus to the throat. This irritates the lining of the throat, contributing to a sore throat, uncomfortable swelling, and even neck pain. You may have acid reflux if you suffer from heartburn, have a hard time swallowing, or feel as if there’s a painful lump in your throat that won’t go away.
Treating acid reflux is best achieved through changes in diet and lifestyle. Eating more lean meats and more vegetables will help you control acid reflux on your own. Weight loss will also reduce acid reflux, so make a few simple lifestyle changes, to manage acid reflux. Some medications can also effectively treat acid reflux, and relieve sore throats and neck pain.
Allergies can contribute to both sore throats and neck pain. The most common allergies include:
- Airborne allergens such as pollen
- Pet dander
- Dust mites
- Mold or mildew
- Food allergies such as nuts, milk, or gluten
When you’re exposed to airborne or food allergies, you’ll often experience a dry, sore throat and neck pain. Other symptoms include sneezing, a stuffy nose, hives, or swelling.
Treatment starts with removing the source of the allergen from the air in the home, avoiding outside allergens that are most common in the spring, and avoiding eating food allergens. Antihistamines can also manage symptoms, and stop sore throats and neck pain.
Tumors are another cause of both sore throats and neck pain. Both benign and cancerous tumors in the neck or head can cause sore throats and neck pain. Common symptoms of tumors in the neck or head are:
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Swelling in the face, jaw, or neck
- A lump anywhere on the head or neck
- Numbness in the neck or the face
It’s very rare to have a tumor, but if you’ve been experiencing a persistent sore throat or neck pain, check for any of these additional symptoms. Both benign and malignant tumors must be surgically removed.
Visiting An ENT
Have you had persistent sore throats and neck pain? If you’ve only had these symptoms for a few days, you probably have a cold, or mild infection. Stay home from work if you can, get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids, such as hot tea. In a few days you should be back on your feet.
However, if the symptoms persist, or you notice any new symptoms that aren’t normal for a common cold, visit your doctor or ENT as soon as possible. Home remedies and mild painkillers won’t bring relief from major symptoms, and you’ll need to seek medical attention.