Causes of Painful Neck & Sore Throat

The throat is a muscular tube that is approximately 5 inches long and extends from the nose and ends in the neck. The voice box, also referred to as the pharynx, is located directly below the throat and allows the vibrations that make sound. The throat and neck also contain several lymph glands that are an important part of the body's immune system. When any of these structures become infected or disturbed, it can result in a painful neck and sore throat.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a throat infection caused by the bacteria streptococcus. As the bacterial infection progresses, those with strep throat experience sore throat, swollen and sore lymph glands in the neck, fever, swollen tonsils, white patches on the back of the throat and fever. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, children may also experience abdominal pain, vomiting and rash. Strep throat can be successfully treated with a series of oral antibiotics. It is important to take all of the prescribed medication to ensure the infection has completely gone away. Those with strep throat are considered contagious until an antibiotic has been taken for at least 24 hours.


The tonsils are large lymph nodes in the back of the neck that help prevent bacteria and other potentially harmful organisms from entering the body. Occasionally, the tonsils can become so overwhelmed with organisms that they become inflamed. This condition is referred to as tonsillitis. Symptoms of tonsillitis include severe sore throat, soreness of the neck and jaw, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, fever, chills, headache and voice changes. MedlinePlus notes that the sore throat associated with tonsillitis usually lasts at least 48 hours and is extremely severe. Treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause of the inflammation. If bacteria are causing the inflammation, antibiotics are administered. Viral infections cannot be treated with medications and usually go away on their own with rest and increased fluid intake.

Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is the term for the development of cancerous tumors in the pharynx, larynx or tonsils. Throat cancer develops when genetic mutations cause cells to divide abnormally and uncontrollably. Those who smoke or consume alcohol excessively are at an increased risk of developing throat cancer, according to Symptoms of throat cancer include sore throat, a painful neck, chronic cough, voice changes, difficulty swallowing, ear pain and weight loss. Treatment for throat cancer depends on several factors, including location of the cancer, stage of the cancer, overall health and personal preferences. Treatment options include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy.

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