Everyone has or will experience swollen lumps in some point of their life. Swollen glands or lumps under the skin in many cases are not a major cause of concern.
Swelling on the neck, under the jaw, or behind the ears are common spots. Swelling is noticeable when you have a cold or a sore throat.
More serious swelling is observed in infections. It may cause the glands to become enlarged. This mass can be firm or tender. Glands swelling is also seen after an injury.
Causes For Lump On Back Of Your Neck
Swollen glands and other lumps under the skin can be caused for many different reasons. Some are listed below:-
Swollen glands are common when your body is fighting infections. More serious type of infections may cause enlargement of glands. This enlarges mass can be firm, hard, or tender.
Some different types of infection are –
i) Bacterial Infection
Strep throat can cause the formation of boil similar to a large pimple. It is caused by Streptococcus bacterium. This boil develops when your hair follicle or the skin becomes infected.
If your lump is caused due to bacterial infection you might also suffer from a sore throat, pain in the ear etc. Some people also have difficulty in swallowing their food. If your neck lump is blocking the airway then you might also have difficulty breathing. Along with that, you will also sound hoarse when you speak.
ii) Viral Infections
Measles, rubella, chicken pox or mumps are common viral infections. A viral infection of the skin will cause a small pearly or flesh-colored bump. Epstein-Barr virus (herpes) or cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause fever, sore throat, and fatigue.
The Other common infection for enlarged lymph nodes is: sinus infections, ear infections, dental infections etc.
2. Benign (noncancerous) Growths
Tumors which are benign s in nature are harmless and can be easily managed. Types of such benign growths include-
A smooth, rubbery, dome-shaped lump. They are a growth of fat cells on your skin trigger by a small injury. It can appear on your neck, armpit, back etc.
ii) Cystic Lesions
These are large pimples. They occur deep under the skin on your neck. These cysts are most common in teenagers and not a cause for concern.
It is the first thing you suspect for neck lumps. In this swelling is caused by inflammation in your salivary gland. It can be due to salivary stone, an infection, or a tumor.
3. Hernias, Aneurysms, or Nodules
A nodule is usually a growth on a gland, while Hernias or aneurysms are bulging sections in a muscle or blood vessel. These can be felt under the skin but usually are not visible.
Different types of such bulging growths include:-
i) Inguinal Hernia
It is a soft lump in the groin or near the navel region. It is more visible when you a cough. Hernias that disappear when you press may not need any medical attention. But if don’t disappear when you press it, seek medical help immediately.
It is a bulging section in the wall of your blood vessel. You will feel it like a pulsating lump in the abdomen, groin etc. If it occurs in blood vessels supplying blood to the brain it is a medical emergency.
iii) Thyroid Nodule
It is an abnormal growth on the thyroid gland present in your neck just below your Adam’s apple.
Lumping is a major symptom in cancer patients. So it’s better to get the check for any lumps on your body. A cancer lump is usually hard, irregularly shaped, and firm. It is fixed under the skin or deep in tissue.
They generally do not cause pain. Major neck lumps are benign but Patients over the age of 40 are more likely to have a cancerous lump.
People having cancerous tumor also show some change in skin color or texture around that area. Blood or phlegm (sputum) might also be found in saliva of such patients
This types of neck lumps are commonly seen in Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Leukemia and cancer of the head and neck tissue also show such swelling.
5. Other Causes
Lumps can occur as a side effect of a medicine, such as a phenytoin. Other causes can be medical conditions and diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis etc. Developmental abnormalities in the pharyngeal pouch, cervical rib are known to cause lumps. An Injury or torticollis may also cause a lump in the neck muscles.
Other less common reasons for swelling on the back of your neck include an allergic reaction to the medicine and/or food. Stone in the salivary duct can block saliva from free flowing in your mouth. This entrapped fluid can also cause a neck lump.
Different Locations/Types Of Neck Lump
Bumps can arise on various parts of your neck. This includes sites such as sides, in and on the back of your neck. A lump that is formed on your neck is referred as a neck mass. The lumps may be large and noticeable or at times small and tender.
1. Lump on Back of Your Neck Hairline
This lumps grow slowly and are moveable. Lumps near your hairline are generally lipoma. They can be painful or sometimes painless. A lipoma as told above is
A lipoma as told above is fat deposit under your skin surface. This lipoma is always soft and cause little pain. They appear pale and colorless.
Lipomas can occur in anyone but it rarely occurs in infants. In Spite of this, they are easy to diagnose than other skin problems. It is also easily treatable. Since lipoma is benign it is not a worrisome problem.
2. Lump on Back of Your Neck Right Side
This lump occurs at the bottom of your skull. It keeps coming and goes after one or two years. It might be worrying and a cause of concern. Hence it requires medical attention and proper treatment. Sebaceous cyst or lipomas are common lumps found here.
They are hard lumps. This hard lump is formed due to abnormal growth of the tissues present behind your neck. This can be painless but not always necessary.
3. Lump on Back of Your Neck Left Side
There can be many results for lumps on this location. But the most common reason is swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged salivary gland. The underlying causes can be as mild as an allergic reactions or tonsillitis. This can also be as severe as a mouth cancer or AIDS.
Bacterial infections such as strep throat, pharyngitis, Mycobacterium are the common cause of lumps at this location. Simple home remedies can help with your lump. But it is always advised to consult a physician for a thorough check-up.
Viral conditions can also be responsible for your swollen lymph nodes. Viruses like rubella, AIDS, herpes infections, can be the cause.
The other conditions include Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin’s disease, mouth cancer, leukemia, food or drug allergies.
For the discomfort caused by your lump, you can use over the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, ibuprofen etc. You can get quick external relief by applying warm and wet cloth on your area to ease the pain. This will also help to reduce your swelling. It is important to note that aspirin should not be given to children, because they may cause Reye’s syndrome.
4. Lump on Back of Neck Under Your Skin
They are harmless so not a big cause of worry. These lumps are caused due to swelling in your neck lymph nodes. You can feel lymph nodes along the sides. These lumps are tender. Because of this, you may feel some pain or itching around that area. Some of these lumps can move when you roll your finger over it.
Lumps under the skin can be because of many causes such as an infection or injury. But for a definitive answer is important to visit your doctor. If your lymph nodes continue to enlarge or you experience fever or weight loss symptoms contact your doctor immediately. But you can always apply a warm cloth soaked in warm salty water for quick relief.
5. Large Lump on Back of Your Neck
A large bump like swelling on the back of your neck can be the tumor. If the bump is painless, then it might be a tumor. This tumor can be benign or malignant. Tumour lump eventually grows to become a hard mass. Contact your doctor if you see such signs.
6. Soft Lump on Back of Your Neck
Soft lumps, in general, are the lipoma or a cyst. A lipoma as mention above is abnormal growth of fatty tissues. It is usually harmless. It can be as small as a pea or have a range of few centimeters.
A cyst, on the other hand, is a sac which contains fluid like pus. The cyst may look similar to a lipoma but it is more close to your skin surface. The Cysts are also firm to the touch. Such lumps can disappear on their own without any medical attention.
7. Hard Lump on Back of Your Neck
Epidermoid cysts can form hard lumps on the back of your neck. This lumps, in general, are small in size. They are skin toned slow-growing painless lumps. These cysts are noncancerous
Corticosteroid injections can be given to reduce the inflammation. You can also remove this cyst by surgery or lasers.
Assessment Of The Neck Lump
Lumps diagnosis is very important to rule out cancer. When you contact your doctor he may ask you following questions. So it’s better that you be prepared beforehand.
1. Self- Examination
- Location of the lump.
- Whether it is tender, hot, red, inflamed.
- Consistency and Size.
- Whether it moves on swallowing (thyroid cysts)
- How deep the lump is: whether it is intradermal (sebaceous cyst or lipoma), subcutaneous or within the deeper tissue.
- Whether it is pulsatile.
- Whether it is a solitary lump?
2. History Of Patient
The doctor will ask your following question:-
- How long has the lump been present and is it painful?
- Has it changed its texture over time?
- Do you experience these symptoms (a cough, cold, sore throat, earache, toothache, skin problems, head lice, bites)?
- Have you been suffering from a fever?
- Do you experience pain on swallowing and does it affect your voice?
- Do you smoke?
- Did you suffer from any tumor or cancer in past?
- Do you have any red flag symptoms such as Night sweats, unexplained bruising, bleeding or weight loss, persistent fatigue with breathlessness?
- Hoarseness, difficulty swallowing for three weeks or more.
- Whether you had hemoptysis (coughing blood).
Factors to Consider for Diagnosis
Neck lumps are more likely to be inflammatory in children and malignant in young people. These lumps are usually congenital (from birth). This mass may be huge and disfiguring.
Inflammatory lumps suddenly arise. If they resolve within 2-6 weeks then they are less of a concern. Slow progressive enlargement over time has a higher risk of malignancy.
Swelling along with difficulty in eating can be due to salivary gland blockage. In such cases, associated symptoms will help you to decipher more information for confirming diagnosis
3. Consistency and Mobility
As told previously, hard mass is more likely to be malignant in nature. While congenital masses, in general, are smooth and mobile. Tenderness suggests infection while Reactive lymph nodes and cysts are mobile in nature.
Some gland swelling is much more specific, such as -Thyroid gland swellings move when you swallow while thyroglossal cysts move when you move your tongue outwards.
Midline lumps are likely to be thyroid or thyroglossal/dermoid cysts. Posterior (back) triangle lumps are caused because of lymph nodes swelling. So lymph nodes are the common cause of swelling in the neck.
Bilateral swellings (both sides) are tender. They’re more likely to be a parotid infection (mumps). A lump a Virchow’s node may indicate a metastatic lung or upper gastrointestinal tumors.
Pain and/or itching around your lump area. Accompany of fever can indicate the presence of an infection. Along with that if it oozes pus, it confirms skin infection.
After physical assessment, you can do clinical assessment to confirm the presence of malignancy in your lumps. Your doctor may ask you to underwent following tests
Full blood count will give you your full blood profile. Abnormal levels of white blood cells can point towards cancer.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate will tell you about inflammation if present. It can be due to cancer or infection.
Thyroid function tests positive results point towards overproduction of thyroid hormone by your gland. Hence confirming the swelling due to hormonal imbalance.
iv) Ultrasound scan, CT or MRI scan
You can also do an Ultrasound scan, CT or MRI scan for thyroid swellings. These tests are noninvasive (painless). This is particularly helpful if the diagnosis is unclear. Because it provides detailed images of the structures in the head and neck.
v) Viral Serology
To rule out viral causes.
You should apply a warm salt water compressor to your boils. Do this 10 minutes every few hours for relief. Such swelling and benign growth will usually disappear on their own within six weeks without any medical treatment.
If your lymph node is enlarged even after several weeks, contact your doctor immediately. Also, tell your doctor if you experience any above-mentioned symptoms along with it.
How to Get Rid of Lump on Back of Your Neck
You can always avoid risk factors to prevent such lumps. For instance, you can quit excessive smoking and alcohol consumption. Other than this an early detection is beneficial. Early detection can be a lifesaver in case of cancerous lumps.
After detection, your treatment depends on what is your underlying cause and location of your lumps. For instance –
i) If your lumps are caused by bacterial They can easily be treated with antibiotics.
ii) The benign tumor is always painless. So you can ignore them. But if it is bothering you, then you can remove it by surgery.
iii) More severe measures are required for cancerous They requires chemotherapy and radiation. This is followed by surgery in most cases.
iv) Allergic lumps can be treated by various anti-allergy
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Lump on Back of Your Neck
You can try home remedies for initial management of your symptoms. But if you do not see any improvement for about one month, you should meet a doctor for a checkup of your lump.
1. Warm Compressor
It can be a great relief for swelling. This works because the heat from the cloth boosts your blood circulation and blood flow into that region. For this-
- Take a clean cloth
- Soak it in hot water bowl
- Remove the excess of water in the same bowl
- Place on your affected area for about 5-10 minutes.
- Repeat till you achieve satisfactory results.
2. Castor Oil
Castor oil is associated with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. So you can use it to reduce your swelling. Castor oil also boosts the flow of lymph fluid. It can also remove the toxins from your system. For your desired results, apply for at least one week.
You can do this by-
- Applying some castor oil on your affected area.
- Gently rub it for 5 mins or more.
- Soak a washcloth in hot water.
- Squeeze out the excess of water.
- Place this warm washcloth for about 5 to 10 minutes on your affected area.
- Rinse it off with lukewarm water
Lemon is known for their antioxidant properties. They can make your healing process faster.
You can use lemon by-
- Making lemon juice with warm water and a teaspoon of honey.
- Drink this daily in the morning and before your bedtime.
- You can also gargle with lemon juice solution in warm water.
- Repeat until desired results are achieved.
4. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is rich in minerals such as iron, manganese, magnesium, folate etc. It is also has a great source of multi vitamin and omega 3 fatty acids. You can directly apply and massage it on your swollen lymph nodes. Just a few drops will suffice you per application. You can repeat it till you achieved your desired results.
5. Tea Bags
Tea bags are a well-known remedy to reduce puffiness under your eyes. This same principle can be applied to relieve your lymph node swelling. Hence, it is considered one of the best method for dealing with your neck lumps. For this, you should-
- Take some tea bags and soak it in hot water.
- Keep it in warm water for few minutes
- You can then apply it to your affected areas
- Repeat it till you achieved your desired results.
Nutmeg are known to boost the flow of lymphatic fluid. This will, in turn, improve your immunity. Moreover, nutmeg also has anti-inflammatory properties to alleviate lump swelling. You can take nutmeg by adding 1 tablespoon of nutmeg powder in a cup of hot water with honey. Repeat it till you achieved your desired results.
7. Vitamin E
You can get your natural daily dose of vitamin E from foods such as peanuts, soybean oil, almond, etc. Vitamin E an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. This will improve your immunity and help you to heal faster.
8. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is filled with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. So this can be used to alleviate lump swelling. You can either topically massage it on affected area or take 1 tbs daily.
9. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is best known as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. So you can also use it to treat swollen lymph For this-
- Squeeze the aloe vera gel and apply it on your affected area
- Keep it for about 20-30 minutes.
- Use a piece of cloth to cover these areas.
- Repeat this for better results.
Menthol is famous for it’s cooling properties. Therefore, it can be used to ease your swelling pain. You can use mint by-
- Adding two tbs of dried mint leaf powder into a cup of hot water. Stir the solution and drink it slowly.
- You can also extract the juice from fresh mint leaves and consume it.
- You can do this twice a day for one week.
You can treat your neck lumps by using honey. Few methods on how you can do this is given below-
- Add 2 tbs of honey with fresh lemon juice into a glass of warm water.
- Drink it twice daily.
- You can also combine honey and hot tea.
- You can apply it directly to affected areas for 10 to 15 minutes. Then Rinse it off with some lukewarm water.
- Repeat until your swelling is reduced.
Garlic has inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is used as antibiotic food. So it can help you to combat lumps caused due to bacterial infection. You can use nodes of garlic as-
- Consume 2 or 3 raw garlic cloves daily. Do this for one week
- Or add crushed garlic cloves to your daily meals.
- You can also take garlic supplements daily.
13. Salt Water Gargle
Salt water curbs the growth of bacteria. Hence it can reduce your swelling and inflammation. For this, you can-
- Add about ½ tbs of table/rock salt into a glass of warm water.
- Stir it until it’s dissolved.
- Then gargle with it. Make sure that the water touches your throat wall.
- You can repeat it several times a day
14. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is known to change your pH levels. They also have antibacterial properties. You can treat your lumps by-
- Mixing 1 tbs apple cider vinegar in the warm water.
- Dip your washcloth into this solution.
- Squeeze excess out of it.
- Then place it on your swollen areas for about 5 minutes.
- After that, you can rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat this for better results
Turmeric is the therapeutic herb. It is mainly used as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also known for its antioxidant properties. You can combat swollen lumps by-
- Mix one tablespoon turmeric powder with honey to create a paste.
- Apply this paste on your swollen areaS and keep it for 10 minutes.
- Then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat this treatment until you obtain satisfactory results.
- You can mix turmeric powder with pepper powder in a cup of milk. Boil this solution and drink it. You can add little sugar or honey to it. It is recommended consuming this solution before bedtime
- You can use turmeric gargle. Add 1/2 tbs of turmeric in a cup of warm water. Gargle this solution three times a day.
- You can also make turmeric tea and drink it. For this, you should boil fresh turmeric root while making tea. Drink daily to get the satisfactory results.
- You can also take turmeric supplements after consulting your doctor carefully.
Neck lumps are more common that you can imagine. It can happen to anyone. They are not always a bad news. But to be sure you are always advised to consult your doctor
An early detection will help you in your treatment. Early detection can be a lifesaver in a cancerous situation. So don’t worry about your neck lumps, but also don’t ignore it. Always consult your doctor for confirmation and to prevent any complication later in life.