Enlarged Lymph Nodes in Neck

Lymph nodes found in your neck are called cervical lymph nodes. There are about three hundreds lymph nodes in your neck area and they are classified in different ways. The enlarged lymph nodes are mostly the superficial types, those that are located directly under your skin.

Causes of Enlarged Lymph Nodes in Neck

Lymphadenitis is the lymph node inflammation and it’s often caused by bacterial infection. Enlarged lymph nodes on your neck can be a little painful to the touch, as they are working hard to defeat the infection. If lymphatic vessels themselves are infected, you may see red streaks that travel from the wound to the lymph nodes on your neck. To understand why your neck lymph nodes are enlarged, you should understand the inner working of your lymphatic system.

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands that are located in various locations throughout your body. These are receiving sites of the lymphatic system, where fluids trap viruses, bacteria and foreign substances. In essential, lymph nodes are filters that can catch foreign substances that have entered your body. The foreign organisms and substances are neutralized by leukocytes or white blood cells. There are about 500 lymph nodes throughout your body and you can feel them on your groin, armpit, behind the ears and neck.

Lymph nodes on your neck occur in groups and when you have an infection, they can be enlarged, reddened and painful to the touch. The location of the enlarged lymph is a good clue to where the health problem is. For example, if lymph nodes throughout your body are enlarged, then you may have a whole-body problem such as infection, autoimmune diseases, drug reaction and leukemia. When you have enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, then you may have an infection in the neck, head or mouth, including strep throat and cold. Babies who are teething or have ear infections may also have enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Other diseases such as toxoplasmosis, cat-scratch fever and tuberculosis are also indicated by enlarged neck lymph nodes.

Should You See a Doctor?

Because enlarged lymph nodes on your neck may be caused by an infection, it doesn’t always indicate serious diseases such as cancer or other worst case scenarios that you might come up with. Do you have an earache or sore throat lately? If yes, nodes near the infected area could swell. It is a sign that your body is doing its job to fight off foreign organisms, you may see a doctor to treat your illnesses, but you shouldn’t be worried by the enlarged lymph glands. However, if there’s no fever present, then you definitely should see a doctor.

Sometimes your lymph nodes swell very rapidly and painful. The nodes may stay enlarged for two days or for up to two weeks and there’s no real cause for concern. On the other hand, heat and redness that come from the swollen area are signs that you should see your doctor. The rule of thumb is, you don’t need to see a doctor if you have enlarged lymph nodes on the neck that accompany a slight cold, wait for 3 or 4 days before seeing a doctor.

In very rare cases, the enlarged nodes are a sign of lymphoma, or blood cancer that affects lymphocyte, a type of white blood cell. Immediately see a doctor if the enlarged nodes in your neck won’t disappear for more than 3 weeks and if accompanied with these symptoms:

  • Weakness or lack of energy
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Drenching night sweats


Pain reliever, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are standard treatment for swollen lymph nodes. If you have immune disorder, prescribed medication may be necessary to reduce the size of the enlarged node. In rare cases, abscess may develop on the nodes and it means the infected material must be removed through a minor surgery.

Holistic and natural treatments should be focused more on the underlying causes of your enlarged lymph nodes. Many homeopathic and herbal remedies are gentle and won’t cause side effects. You can use Hypoxrs rooperii to boost your immune system, while Mistletoe (Viscum album) can repair damaged cells and reduce inflammation. Other herbs such as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) and Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) should be used if your condition is acute and requires immediate help to boost your immune system. When buying herbal products from the drugstore, you should choose only those produced by reputable companies. The ingredient quality and dosage are two important factors you should consider when choosing herbal medicines.

If the enlarged area is tender, you can use hot and cold compresses simultaneously. Take warm and ice cold water, one bowl each, also prepare two clean washcloths. Place the warm and damp (not dripping wet) washcloth on the enlarged nodes for 10 minutes and then replace it with the cold and damp washcloth.

For thousands of years, people have been using honey for its curative properties. You can use it to reduce the enlarged lymph nodes and ease the associated pain. Dissolve a teaspoon of honey on a cup of warm water or tea, after a few days; you’ll see improvements on the enlarged lymph nodes.

Instead of enlarges lymph nodes, you may actually have tight neck muscles. The muscles that pass just inside your ears to the top of your heads can be tightened due to a number of reasons, such as improper sleeping position. When they’re tight, the nerves can be pressed causing discomfort, pain or even hearing loss. As the result, an area under your ear can be slightly enlarged and painful to the touch. See the doctor to confirm your condition, he may ask you to see a massage therapist to loosen and relax the offending muscles.

Comments 21
  1. The information provided was very helpful to me, and I now realise I need a new pillow and some neck massage. It has put my mind at rest, thank you.

  2. Great article with clear and concise factual information and advice. Thank you for helping me to clear up my doubts and stop me worrying.

  3. Thank you so much for your intelligent and helpful article HealthGuidance.org. Because of this I finally understood what the situation was with my enlarged lymph node on my neck. Thank you again and have a great day!

  4. It's useful as it refers to some issues that other websites don't refer to, such as situations in which the glands are hardened and fixed AND painful. Or hardened and fixed and nota companied by a fever.

  5. Great resource of info. Informative & accurate. Thank you for providing complete answers to my random medical questions.

  6. Good article, prompted me into making an appointment to see a Doctor, I have enlarged nodes and most of the other symptoms.

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