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What are the Most Common Causes of a Sore Throat and Neck Pain?

By Sarah Kay Moll
Updated May 17, 2024
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The most common causes of sore throat and neck pain are viral infections of the upper respiratory system such as colds, the flu, or mononucleosis. These viruses are usually treated with bed rest and lots of fluids. Another common cause is strep throat, a bacterial infection in the throat.

A cold can be caused by many different viruses, the most common being rhinovirus. A cold can sometimes cause a pain in the throat and neck. Other cold symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, congestion in the nose and throat, sore muscles, and fatigue. There is no cure for the common cold. Bed rest and fluids can help a person recover faster, and over-the-counter pain medications and cough syrup can help relieve symptoms.

Like a cold, the flu is caused by a viral infection. The symptoms of the flu include sore throat and neck pain, as well as congestion, sore muscles, fever, and fatigue. These symptoms are very similar to cold symptoms, however, in the case of the flu they tend to be more severe and onset suddenly.

Although the flu usually improves on its own with bed rest, younger children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at risk for complications. It might be necessary see a physician if flu symptoms are very severe or do not improve after a week or two, especially for people at high risk. A physician might prescribe an antiviral drug to help the body fight off the infection.

Mononucleosis, also called the "kissing disease," is another possible cause of sore throat and neck pain. It is also caused by a virus which is transmitted through saliva. The symptoms of mononucleosis are very similar to the symptoms of the flu or a cold. Other symptoms include swollen tonsils and weakness. Bed rest and fluids are generally the best treatment for mononucleosis, although in some cases there is a secondary infection which must be treated with antibiotics. If symptoms don’t improve in a week or two, it might be necessary to see a physician.

Many people with strep throat also have a sore throat and neck pain. The main symptoms of strep throat are throat pain, difficulty swallowing, red and swollen tonsils, fever, headache, and fatigue. Strep throat is treated with antibiotics such as penicillin. A strep infection, if untreated, can spread through the body, however, the treatment is simple and effective and so such complications are rare.

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Discussion Comments

By ddljohn — On May 16, 2013

I developed a constant sore throat and neck pain before I found out I have hypothyroidism. The doctor said that my thyroid gland is inflamed and the thyroid is located in the neck so naturally, the pain is felt there.

I didn't have any neck pain relief when I was on thyroid medications, the symptoms didn't go away until my thyroid healed itself about a year and a half later. Even now, I get throat pain sometimes and I start worrying that my thyroid is inflamed again.

By bluedolphin — On May 15, 2013

@ZipLine-- It might or might not be something to worry about. But you should see your doctor to make sure.

There are some serious viral and bacterial infections that cause throat and neck pain. You have to make sure that you are not dealing with an infection because it can be harmful to the baby and detrimental for the pregnancy.

It could also be nothing serious. A sore throat could be from cold weather or some kind of irritation. Neck and shoulder pain is common during pregnancy, it has to do with weight gain and the extra pressure applied on the spine and consequently the back, shoulders and neck.

But like I said, get checked out right away to make sure.

By ZipLine — On May 15, 2013

I'm pregnant and I have had a sore throat as well as neck pain for the past few days. Should I be worried?

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