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Swollen tender lump / lymph node on back, pain in skull when moving neck. Is this normal?

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Internal Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 1998
Answered : 1579 Questions
Hello. Last thurs and fri I felt sick. Friday I felt a mump on the back of my neck. Went to doc theysaid it was a lymph node. My skull is hurting though everytime I bend my neck from the lymph node up to maybe the middle of my head. Very tender and sore. I have been pressing it and making it worse. Is this normal?
Posted Tue, 22 May 2012 in Brain and Spine
Answered by Dr. Jasvinder Singh 1 hour later
Thanks for posting your query.

From the symptoms that you have mentioned three important possibilities are coming to my mind which need to be evaluated:

1)     Firstly this swollen lump which is causing radiating pain can be a swollen lymph node in relation to any infection that you had recently. Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection and since you fell sick before this, infection causing swollen lymph node could have been responsible for this. Other causes include allergic reactions or some malignancy.

2)     Second possibility is of any cyst which is a small cystic swelling filled with a soft, whitish brown material called sebum that sometimes oozes out onto the skin's surface. It can regress in size when the sebum decreases.

3)     Third possibility is of a boil/ abscess which is causing localized pain due to compression of the underlying nerves and spinal nerves. This compression of nerves may cause referred pain in neck, arms etc which are supplied by the spinal nerves.

Apply warm compresses on the area and take some over the counter anti-inflammatory pain killer after consulting your doctor. You may also need oral antibiotics for the infection.

If the swelling persists then you need to get a MRI scan and a FNAB (fine needle aspiration biopsy) of the lump. FNAB is aspiration of the material of the glands which is done by a fine gauge needle (22 or 25 gauge) and a syringe.

MRI scan is the best test for detecting the cause of any both these tests need to be done if the lump does not regress in size after warm compresses and antibiotics. Hence you may need to get it evaluated from a surgeon.

Hope this answers your query. If you have additional questions or follow up queries then please do not hesitate in writing to us. I will be happy to answer your queries.

Wishing you good health.

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