Do you feel like you have a tension or tightness in your throat even though you can’t identify a reason for the feeling? You’re not alone. Many people feel this tension. Some feel it every so often. Some feel it regularly. And for some people, it seems as though it never goes away.

Tension or tightness in the throat is often accompanied by a feeling that:

  • you need to swallow frequently to loosen the tension
  • you’ve got a lump in your throat
  • there’s something tied around your throat
  • there’s something blocking your throat or airway
  • there’s a tenderness in your neck
  • your voice is tight or strained

There are a number of reasons that you could be feeling tightness and tension in your throat. Here are some possible causes.

Anxiety

When anxiety makes your throat feel tight or makes you feel like you have something stuck in your throat, the feeling is called “globus sensation.”

Stress

There’s a ring of muscle in your throat that opens and closes when you eat. When you are feeling stressed, this ring of muscle can become tense. This tension can feel like something is stuck in your throat or that your throat is tight.

Panic attack

A panic attack is related to stress and anxiety. The sensation that your throat is tightening — even to the point of making it difficult to breathe — is one of the classic signs of a panic attack. Other signs and symptoms include:

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus and causes a burning sensation in the chest known as heartburn or reflux. Along with the burning sensation in the chest, heartburn can also cause tightness in the throat.

Goiter

A goiter is an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland — which is in the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Throat tension and tightness is one of the symptoms of a goiter. Other symptoms can include difficulty breathing or swallowing as well as swelling in the front of the throat and neck.

Muscle tension dysphonia (MTD)

Muscle tension dysphonia (MTD) is a voice disorder that can make you feel throat tension. It happens when the muscles around the voice box (larynx) over-tighten during speaking to the point that the voice box does not work efficiently.

Allergies

An allergic reaction to food or another substance can make you feel tension or a tightening of your throat. When the immune system releases chemicals to combat an allergen, a tight throat is one possible symptom. Others can include a stuffy nose and itching, watering eyes.

Postnasal drip

Head colds, sinus drainage, and nasal allergies can all cause dripping of mucus down the back of the throat. This can lead to irritation that can feel like a lump in the back of your throat.

Infections

Both tonsillitis (an inflammation of the tonsils) and strep throat (a bacterial infection of the throat) can cause the sensation of throat tension. Other symptoms of a throat infection can include:

Throat tension and tightness can be annoying as well as uncomfortable. It can also be an indication of a condition that needs medical attention:

Treatment for throat tension is determined by diagnosis.

Anxiety

Based on your doctor’s recommendation, anxiety can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Your doctor might also recommend healthy lifestyle changes, relaxation exercises, and meditation.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Based on your doctor’s diagnosis, GERD can be treated with medications, dietary/lifestyle changes, or a combination of both. It is very rare, but severe cases of GERD might require surgery.

Goiter

Depending on the cause of the thyroid goiter, it is typically treated with medication, surgery, or radioactive iodine therapy.

Muscle tension dysphonia (MTD)

MTD is most commonly treated with voice therapy that might include resonant voice techniques and massage. If the voice box spasms, Botox injections are sometimes used along with voice therapy.

Allergies

The first steps in any allergy treatment are identification and avoidance. Your doctor or an allergist can help you identify those allergens that cause you discomfort.

If necessary, there are a number of treatments — including allergy shots — that can be customized to your specific situation.

Postnasal drip

Suggested treatments for postnasal drip include:

  • Humidity: Use a vaporizer or humidifier.
  • Medication: Try an over-the-counter decongestant or antihistamine.
  • Irrigation: Use a saline nasal spray or a neti pot.

Infections

While bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, viral infections need to resolve on their own. When fighting an infection, rest and hydration are important. If you are concerned about infection, see your doctor.

In most cases, throat tension is not serious, and many of the conditions that have throat tension as a symptom are easily treatable.