Lymph node and neck pain can be caused by a variety of ailments, from the benign, such as the common cold, to the more severe, such as HIV and AIDS. Most people will experience both at some point in their life and, usually, the cause of the pain and swelling will resolve itself. For people experiencing pain that persists, it is recommended to seek out the advice of a medical professional.
Lymph nodes, which are part of the lymphatic system, act as a filtering system for the human body. Technically a cluster of reticular connective tissue, lymph nodes are filled with lymphocytes that trap bacteria and viruses as they circulate in the body. This is one of the main causes of lymph node and neck pain. As the lymphocytes multiply as a result of a bacterial or viral infection, swelling and tenderness can occur.
There are six types of lymph nodes in the neck region. The anterior cervical lymph nodes are in the back of the neck and help to drain the tonsils and thyroid gland. The posterior cervical lymph nodes extend from the middle of the head down to the shoulders and are frequently checked if a sinus infection is suspected. The tonsillar lymph nodes are in the back of the throat and help to drain the pharynx and tonsils.
Under the jaw, the sub-mandibular lymph nodes drain the mouth's floor. Tasked with the job of draining the teeth are the submental lymph nodes, which are below the chin. Finally, the supraclavicular lymph nodes, which are above the collar bones, assist in draining the chest in case of a respiratory infection.
Any one of the lymph nodes can become swollen and cause lymph node and neck pain, depending on the severity of the infection and the body's ability to fight it off. In a person whose immune system has been compromised, the likelihood of swollen lymph nodes and neck pain increases. While the most common form of pain is associated with posterior cervical lymph nodes, any one of the six types of neck lymph nodes can cause pain elsewhere in the head, neck, and chest.
Another reason for neck pain with swollen lymph nodes is pressure. When lymph nodes are swollen, they begin taking up space usually occupied by muscle. As the neck muscles are used, they press against the swollen lymph nodes, causing the increased lymphocytes to create pressure and pain. Eventually, the body's immune system will destroy the bacteria or eliminate the virus and alleviate the swelling. If a more serious problem is present, certain medications are used to help reduce the swelling and pain.
Lymph node and neck pain can also be caused by more serious diseases, such as lymph node cancer. Lymph node cancer, or lymphoma, has a high rate of treatment success and curability. If you have experienced prolonged periods of pain in your lymph nodes or neck, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your healthcare provider.