What Are the Posterior Cervical Lymph Nodes?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2018
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The posterior cervical lymph nodes are located along the sides of neck and drain lymphatic fluid from both the head and neck. These lymph nodes typically fight infections of the throat, upper respiratory tract, or teeth. Battling these infections can cause the lymph nodes to become enlarged. Without any other signs of infection, posterior cervical lymph nodes may also be enlarged due to the metastasis of cancerous cells.

Located in a line running vertically along the back edge of the neck, the posterior cervical lymph nodes are positioned just above the base of the neck. They are part of the lymphatic system, which is composed of lymphatic vessels and fluid, the tonsils, spleen, thymus gland, and clusters of lymph nodes located in the neck, underarm, and groin. Lymphatic fluid travels all over the body collecting various components, such as proteins and bacteria, and carry it back to the lymph nodes for removal and destruction. The posterior cervical lymph nodes receive lymph from the head and neck area.


When the head is suffering from an infection, the lymph nodes in the head and neck will filter out and destroy the infection-causing bacteria. This burden can cause the lymph nodes in the head and neck to swell as the battle against the infection is waged. Swollen lymph nodes are a clinical sign, in combination with other symptoms such as fever, congestion, and bodily aches, that the body is suffering from an infection. Enlarged posterior cervical lymph nodes typically suggest an infection of the throat, a viral infection, an infection of the upper respiratory tract, or an infection in a tooth. Most swollen lymph nodes will return to normal size following the infection, but if a lymph node remains swollen for more than two weeks and associated symptoms do not disappear, a doctor should be seen.

The lymph fluid can also collect cancer cells and transport them throughout the lymphatic vessels to the lymph nodes. Swelling of the posterior cervical lymph nodes can sometimes be due to the spreading of head and neck cancers to these nodes. When the posterior cervical lymph nodes are swollen without any associated signs of infection or occur in a person who has suffered from cancer in the past, a doctor should be seen immediately to determine the cause of the swelling. When this is the case, the lymph nodes will often be biopsied. If the lymph nodes are found to contain cancer, then they may be removed.


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Post 4

On the lower part of my head on both sides, there is a swollen area with a little pain.

Post 3

Another problem with the lymphatic system is lymphedema, where the lymph glands get backed up and can cause horrible swelling and even the loss of use of a limb if it gets too big.

Fortunately, you rarely if ever hear of it happening in the posterior cervical nodes, because that could easily be crippling. I would imagine that if things started to back up in there, they would quickly have to remove the nodes. You can't have your neck and head swelling up like that.

The lymphatic system is one of those things that when it works right, it is tremendously beneficial, but when it goes wrong, it can be the end of you.

Post 2

I never knew much about the lymphatic system until I got in to high school and took biology and physiology. My mother would talk about us having "swollen glands" if we had a sore throat or something, but I never really knew what they were.

I never really noticed having posterior cervical lymph node enlargement, I guess because of where the glands are located. You notice the anterior glands a lot more, because they are right under your jaw.

One of mine get swollen sometimes because I have a bad root canal, and it gets infected every so often. I really need to get that thing drilled out one of these days.

Post 1

The lymphatic is a wonderful system to move things around the body, with one exception, cancer. It always seems that you hear someone had cancer, and then eventually you might hear that it is in the lymph nodes. Almost always, it seems that if it gets that far, it's over.

I know that they can remove nodes if the cancer spreads, but usually it seems like it is too late. I wonder why they don't remove them ahead of time. Whatever problems it may cause can't be worse than metastatic cancer.

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