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Pain in the Front of the Neck Symptom, Causes & Questions

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Last updated June 15, 2022

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Understand your pain in the front of the neck symptoms, including 8 causes & common questions.

9 most common causes

Whiplash
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Neck Sprain
Ludwig's Angina
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Premature Ventricular Contractions
Pharyngitis
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Retropharyngeal abscess
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Acute thyroiditis
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Inflammation of the epiglottis
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Heart Attack

Neck pain quiz

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8 causes of pain in the front of the neck

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Retropharyngeal abscess (adult)

Retropharyngeal abscess is a collection of pus in the tissues in the back of the throat. It is a potentially life-threatening medical condition.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: sore throat, loss of appetite, fever, shortness of breath, being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Whiplash

Whiplash, a soft tissue injury to the neck, is the result of a sudden jolt to the neck. This injury most frequently occurs after a car is rear-ended.

You do not need treatment. Your whiplash should improve within a week. In the meantime, you can take an over-the-counter painkiller to manage your pain. If your symptoms do not improve, you should see your primary care physician.

Viral infection of the larynx (voice box)

Laryngitis an inflammation of the larynx, or voice box. This causes the vocal cords to swell and leads to a hoarse, raspy voice.

A viral infection, such as the common cold or influenza, is nearly always the cause of laryngitis. These infections are spread through casual contact, as when someone sneezes and the droplets are inhaled from the air.

Most at risk are people whose immune systems are already weakened by illness, medication, or chemotherapy.

Symptoms include hoarseness; sore, irritated throat; difficulty speaking; coughing; and sometimes fever.

Forcing speech during laryngitis can cause permanent damage to the vocal cords. Hoarseness that never really clears up should be seen by a medical provider, as it can be a symptom of a more serious condition.

Diagnosis is made through throat swab and sometimes blood tests.

Treatment involves rest and drinking plenty of fluids until the virus has run its course, and resting the voice so the swelling can subside on its own. Antibiotics are not effective against a viral illness.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, fever, dry cough, hoarse voice

Urgency: Self-treatment

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Retropharyngeal abscess

Retropharyngeal abscess is a collection of pus in the tissues in the back of the throat. It is a potentially life-threatening medical condition.

This is a medical emergency. Please seek out urgent care at your closest Emergency Department today. Diagnosis is done with imaging. Treatment is immediate surgical drainage and antibiotics.

Premature ventricular contractions

Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are extra, abnormal heartbeats that begin in one of the heart's two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). These extra beats disrupt the regular heart rhythm, sometimes causing a feeling of a skipped beat in your chest.

If you are an otherwise healthy individual, there's generally no reason for concern as PVC's on themselves are not harmful. However, palpitations can be hard to distinguish from a more serious underlying heart issue, and therefore it is recommended to visit a doctor today to get an EKG done.

Neck sprain

Neck sprain, sometimes called "whiplash," means that the ligaments – the tough, fibrous bands that connect bones together – in the neck have been torn or overstretched.

It is caused by a sudden impact that causes the head to whip back and forth very suddenly, most commonly from an automobile accident or riding a fast amusement park ride. A sports injury may force the neck to overstretch, spraining the ligaments.

Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back; dizziness; ringing in the ears; and sometimes spots of numbness in the hands and arms.

It is important to see a medical provider about these symptoms, to rule out any damage to the spinal cord. Paralysis, difficulty walking, or loss of control over bladder and bowels indicate a medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, tests of reflexes, and sometimes x-ray, CT scan, or MRI.

Treatment includes rest and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Muscle relaxants may be prescribed.

Ludwig's angina

Ludwig angina is a bacterial infection of the floor of the mouth and occurs beneath the tongue.

You should visit an emergency room immediately. This requires immediate antibiotic treatment and, in some cases, surgery.

Inflammation of the epiglottis

Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis, tissue that covers the trachea (windpipe), which helps prevent coughing or choking after swallowing. It is usually caused by the bacteria H. Influenzae but can also be caused by other bacteria or viruses that cause upper respiratory infections.

Call 911 immediately for an ambulance now! Epiglottis can be a life-threatening emergency. Though with proper treatment at a hospital, the outcome is usually good.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: being severely ill, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, pain with swallowing

Symptoms that never occur with inflammation of the epiglottis: cough

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Heart attack in a woman

Most heart attacks happen when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Often this leads to an irregular heartbeat - called an arrhythmia - that causes a severe decrease in the pumping function of the heart.

Call 911 and seek emergency care immediately

Neck pain quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Take neck pain quiz

Head and neck cancer

There are five main types of head and neck cancer, which are all named according to the part of the body where they develop: laryngeal (voice box), nasal cavity and sinus, nasopharyngeal (air passage way behind the nose), oral (mouth), and salivary gland cancers. Most of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), meaning they begin in the flat (squamous) cells that make up the thin surface layer of the structures in the head and neck.

You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a cancer specialist (oncologist) for further testing. It is impossible to definitively diagnosis head and neck cancers without lab testing and biopsy. Treatment is likely to include surgery and chemotherapy.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, hoarse voice, neck bump, ear canal pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acute thyroiditis

Acute thyroiditis is a rare inflammation of the thyroid gland caused by an infection, radiation, medication, or trauma.

You should seek immediate medical care at an ER. This is possibly a medical emergency and requires immediate diagnosis (thyroid function tests, blood tests, and imaging) and treatment (antibiotics, supportive care, stopping causative drugs).

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: sore throat, fever, being severely ill, hoarse voice, pain in the front of the neck

Symptoms that always occur with acute thyroiditis: pain in the front of the neck

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Questions your doctor may ask about pain in the front of the neck

  • Do you notice your heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly (also called palpitations)?
  • Have you ever been told you have a heart valve problem?
  • Have you ever had a heart attack?
  • Have there been changes in your voice?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Pain in the front of the neck symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced pain in the front of the neck have also experienced:

  • 11% Pain In The Back Of The Neck
  • 4% Pain In One Shoulder
  • 4% Headache

People who have experienced pain in the front of the neck were most often matched with:

  • 33% Acute Thyroiditis
  • 33% Retropharyngeal Abscess (Adult)
  • 33% Ludwig'S Angina

People who have experienced pain in the front of the neck had symptoms persist for:

  • 37% Less than a week
  • 26% Less than a day
  • 18% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

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