Lump in Throat: 7 Common Causes & How to Relieve it

Clinical review: Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
January 2022

The feeling of a lump in the throat is characterized by throat discomfort that in some cases can lead to difficulty breathing.

In most cases, this symptoms occurs due to a post-nasal drip, but it can also be a sign of more serious illnesses. Therefore, you should see a doctor if the sensation is very uncomfortable. 

The following is a list of common problems that can cause the sensation of a lump in the throat, as well as what you can do:

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1. Stress and anxiety

Emotional reactions like stress and anxiety can cause a lump in the throat, nausea and vomiting, chest tightness, muscular tension and tremors.

How to relieve it: To alleviate this sensation when it is caused by anxiety, you should use relaxation techniques like yoga or mindfulness, and you should seek the assistance of a therapist. If your stress and anxiety symptoms are not relieved with relaxation techniques or with a therapist, you may need to complete treatment with anxiety medications, which should be prescribed by a psychiatry.

2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD consists of the back-up of stomach content into the esophagus toward the mouth. It can cause pain, burning and inflammation, as well as a sensation of a lump in the throat. The intensity of symptoms depends on the acidity of the stomach contents, as well as the amount of acid in contact with esophageal tissue. Learn more about acid reflux and how it is treated.

How to relieve it: To reduce pain and discomfort in the throat caused by acid, treatment will usually consist of the use of proton pump inhibitors (medications that reduce stomach acid production) like omeprazole or pantoprazole. Antacids can also be prescribed, like aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and sodium bicarbonate. Medications should be taken as prescribed by the doctor.

3. Thyroid problems

The thyroid gland is found in the neck, and therefore any pain in the area can be the result of a nodule or mass in the thyroid. This can alter the normal function of the thyroid gland.

How to relieve it: If your lump in the throat is related to thyroid problems, you should consult an endocrinologist, you can order testing to assess thyroid function and indicate appropriate treatment.

4. Swollen epiglottis

A swollen epiglottis, also known as laryngeal angioedema, can occur due to a serious allergic reaction. It is characterized by seve swelling of the throat, causing a lump in the throat as well as difficulty breathing. 

How to relieve it: If you experience swelling in the epiglottis, you should proceed immediately to the emergency room to prevent respiratory failure and death.

5. Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis is an illness that can cause many symptoms, including weakness in the neck muscles which make holding your head up straight difficult. This can cause your head to hang forward or to the side, which may sometimes cause a feeling of a lump in the throat.

How to relieve it: The treatment of myasthenia gravid consists of the use of medication that promote muscle control. Many times, the thymus must be surgically removed. This gland is associated with the immune system, and its removal can sometimes improve the quality of life of affected patients.

6. Myotonic dystrophy

Myotonic dystrophy is a genetic disease that is characterized by prolonged muscle contractions that have difficulty relaxing. The most affected muscles are those of the face, neck, hands, feet and back of the arms. It is possible for people with this illness to experience a lump in the throat. 

How to relieve it:  The treatment of myotonic dystrophy can include the use of medication like phenytoin, quinine, procainamide or nifedipine, which help to alleviate muscle rigidity and associated pain. Physiotherapy can also help to increase muscle strength.

7. Cancer

In more serious cases, a lump in the throat can be due to neck cancer, which is usually accompanied by other signs and symptoms like a palpable mass, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, frequent choking, weight loss and general malaise.

How to relieve it: If the feeling of a lump in the throat is due to a tumor, the doctor should indicate treatment based on the stage of cancer and the health history of each individual patient.

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Written and updated by Daisy Oliveira - Registered Nurse on January of 2022. Clinical review by Manuel Reis - Registered Nurse, on January of 2022.
Clinical review:
Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
Manuel graduated in 2013 and is licensed to practice under the Ordem dos Enfermeiros de Portugal, with license #79026. He specializes in Advanced Clinical Phytotherapy.