Pain in front of neck

Pain in front of neck can arise due to minor causes, or it can be a symptom of some serious underlying medical condition. If pain in front of neck persists for more than 4 days, then it is important for patients to visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and effective treatment.

Causes and accompanying symptoms of pain in front of neck

Some of the common causes of pain in front of neck and associated symptoms are listed below:

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  • Throat infection: Strep throat is the most common type of throat infection which causes pain in front of neck. Strep throat is caused due to infection by strep bacteria. Additional symptoms include sore throat, neck discomfort, stiff neck, and painful throat inflammation.
  • Thyroid problems: The neck is home to the thyroid gland which is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. The gland is located in the front part of neck and hence any kind of thyroid malfunction often results in pain in front of neck.
    • Hypothyroidism: It is characterized by the presence of an underactive thyroid gland, which produces inadequate amounts of thyroid hormones, thereby causing dysfunction of the different biological processes occurring in the body. Hypothyroidism associated pain in front of neck can be severe; it can sometimes radiate to the ear and cause increased pressure in the ears.
    • Hyperthyroidism: It is characterized by an overactive thyroid gland, thereby leading to production of abnormally excess amounts of thyroid hormones. In addition to pain in front of neck, patients may suffer from headaches, intense neck discomfort, and neck muscle pain.
    • Whiplash: It is identified by injuries to many soft tissues present in the neck. It is typically caused due to motor accidents, or when participating in certain kinds of sports. Rapid neck flexion and extension is what causes the intense neck pain associated with whiplash. Other than pain in front of neck, patients may experience additional symptoms like ligament sprain, neck stiffness, muscle strain, dizziness, headache, loss of memory, tinging and numbness in the extremities, concentration problems, depression, and fatigue. Recovery from whiplash related neck injuries can occur in about 3 months.
    • Thyroid cancer: It is characterized by the occurrence of a malignant tumor in the throat. Patients may experience pain in front of neck, feel a lumpy growth in front of neck, enlargement of the neck region, pain when swallowing food, and difficulties in consuming meals.
    • Laryngitis: It is a painful throat illness caused due to a viral infection and characterized by inflammation of the larynx or the voice box. Affected individuals may suffer from problems when speaking and when swallowing food, pain in front of neck, and hoarseness of the voice.Individuals with seasonal flu and common cold are most vulnerable to developing laryngitis.
    • Goiter: Inflammation, swelling, and enlargement of the thyroid gland is referred to as goiter. It may be caused due to varied factors such as thyroid problems or iodine deficiency, etc.It can cause pain in front of neck when swallowing or breathing.The intensity of accompanying symptoms is dependent on the goiter size. Minor goiters typically do not cause pain, while larger ones can cause neck pain, and voice hoarseness, etc.
    • Other causes: Diffused or localized pain in front of neck can also be caused due to tonsillitis, temporomandibular joint disorder, and sinusitis; acute or chronic cases of muscle strain and herniated discs; lupus, an immune system disorder; bone spurs in the neck; and an abscessed tooth which causes the neck lymph nodes to swell.

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Treatment of pain in front of neck is aimed at finding the underlying cause and correcting it.

  • Thyroid disorders are treated as per the type affecting the patient. Hyperthyroidism is treated with anti-thyroid medications which decrease hormone production; severe cases may require surgical removal of the gland. Such patients may then need thyroid hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives. Hypothyroidism is treated with iodine supplementation and with prescription drugs that increase thyroid hormone secretion.
  • Throat cancer that has not metastasized can be treated via surgical removal of the thyroid gland and other surgical procedures. If the cancer has spread to other areas, then radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be required.
  • Daily exercising of the neck muscles can help tighten and strengthen them, prevent easy injuries of the neck, and thus help avoid pain in front of neck. The neck muscle stretch exercises can be performed when standing or sitting. Turn the head so that it faces the ceiling and then move the tongue so that it touches the roof of the mouth. Now, keeping the tongue in the same position move the neck back to original position. Doing this exercise on a daily basis will help stretch and strengthen the neck muscles.
  • Laryngitis usually resolves on its own via self-care measures like drinking lots of water to avoid a dry mouth, speaking less, avoiding whispering, and gargling with saline water.
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