What Causes a Lump in Your Throat (Globus Sensation)?
Have you ever experienced a constricting sensation in your throat, as if something were stuck there? It feels like you have a lump in your throat, but there’s nothing physically there. Globus sensation, as it is medically known, can be an unsettling and uncomfortable experience yet is surprisingly common.
Fortunately, a lump in the throat feeling rarely indicates any serious medical issue and won’t interfere with proper eating or drinking. The feeling will usually disappear on its own or with simple home remedies.
Read on to understand the common causes, symptoms, and available treatments for this sensation.
What Is Globus Sensation?
Globus sensation, or globus pharyngeus, is a painless feeling of having a lump or foreign object lodged in the throat. Although you might feel like something is stuck in your throat, you will eat and drink normally. You'll most likely feel this lump when swallowing saliva.
The feeling will usually only last a while and disappear after eating or drinking. The good news is that it’s not harmful and can occur even when there’s no underlying health issue.
What Causes A Lump in the Throat?
There are several possible explanations for the causes of a lump in the throat feeling, including allergies, muscle tension, GERD, anxiety, and postnasal drip. Let’s take a closer look at each cause and how they relate to the lump in your throat.
When exposed to an allergen such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, your immune system releases histamine. Histamine causes inflammation in your throat or nasal passages, leading to excess mucus production that drips down the back of your throat and causes post-nasal drip.
When your throat muscles are not active through swallowing or talking, they are often relaxed. The problem arises when these muscles don't relax properly, resulting in a tense feeling in the throat. This feeling can feel like a constriction or a lump in your throat.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD happens when your stomach acid and partially digested food flow back up from your stomach through the lower esophageal sphincter or food pipe. When the stomach's acidic contents enter the esophagus, they can irritate your throat's delicate tissues, leading to that lump feeling in your throat. The reflux can also push into the pharynx or larynx, creating a lump in the throat feeling.
Anxiety and other intense emotions like stress and grief can trigger a lump in the throat feeling. The distress can cause hyperactivity of the muscles located at the back of the throat, which may lead to tightening or spasm of these muscles. This tightness can result in a sensation that something is stuck in the throat.
Post-nasal drip occurs when mucus from your nasal passages drains down the back of your throat. As the mucus drips down the throat, it can cause irritation and a feeling of a lump in your throat. Allergies, colds, influenza, sinus infections, and other illnesses may cause post-nasal drip.
The main symptom of a lump in the throat is the feeling that something is stuck in your throat. Usually, the globus sensation does not have any serious symptoms. The most common ones might include:
- A feeling of tightness in the throat
- Tickling or itching sensation in the throat
- Mucus in the throat
If the lump in your throat feeling is due to serious conditions, you might have serious symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, heartburn, and a chronic cough. Some disorders that can cause serious symptoms include thyroid disease, muscle disorders, such as myotonic dystrophy, and gastrointestinal disorders, like GERD and esophageal spasms.
How to Get Rid of a Lump in the Throat
There's no universally accepted treatment for a lump in the back of the throat because experts are not sure what causes it. In most cases, the sensation will disappear within a few hours.
However, most causes that are believed to cause globus sensation are treatable. If the physician establishes that one of the factors mentioned above is causing your globus sensation, they may recommend the following treatment options:
Nasal sprays can reduce the symptoms of allergies and post-nasal drip. These include antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroid nasal sprays that reduce inflammation in your nose and throat. Antihistamines reduce histamine production in your body to reduce inflammation, while decongestants can minimize mucus production.
Sublingual immunotherapy provides long-term relief from allergies by desensitizing your body to allergens. Your doctor will give you tablets or drops containing an allergen, which you need to place under your tongue. Over time, your immune system will become used to the allergen and reduce your allergic reactions.
If your lump in the throat is due to muscle tension, the doctor may recommend physical therapy or a massage to relax and stretch tight muscles. These interventions address the pain and tension in your throat. You might also undergo speech therapy to learn the best practices to relax your throat muscles.
Acid Reflux Medications
Medications are available to alleviate GERD symptoms, including reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach and decreasing irritation in the throat. Your doctor might prescribe medications such as proton-pump inhibitors or H2 blockers to decrease the acid produced in your stomach. Over-the-counter antacids can also neutralize stomach acid to ease irritation in the throat.
If stress or anxiety is causing your lump in the throat feeling, your doctor may suggest therapy options like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps you identify negative thought patterns and coping mechanisms that can lead to emotional distress. Furthermore, doctors may recommend relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to help you reduce stress and anxiety.
How to Prevent Globus Sensation?
The best thing you can do to prevent globus pharyngeus is to take care of your throat in the best way possible. By taking good care of your throat health, you reduce the risk of developing a globus sensation. The following tips can help you get started:
If you are an allergy sufferer, reduce your exposure to potential allergens that can trigger symptoms such as post-nasal drip. Some of the avoidance measures include:
- Cleaning carpets and furniture with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter to trap tiny allergens
- Closing your windows when the pollen count is high
- Using dust mite-proof covers on your bedding
- Cleaning your floor with a damp rag instead of sweeping
- Wearing a mask outside if you can’t avoid going out when the pollen count is high
- Changing clothes and showering immediately after coming indoors
- Keeping pets out of the bedroom
The best avoidance techniques will depend on what you are allergic to.
Drinking plenty of water thins out the mucus and reduces post-nasal drip. It also ensures the smooth secretion of body fluids to reduce inflammation in your throat. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily, and more if you are physically active or living in a hot climate.
Avoid Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
Smoking can lead to a chronic cough, which can aggravate the muscles in your throat and make you feel as if there’s a lump in it. Avoiding tobacco and nicotine products will keep your throat healthy and prevent a lump in the throat feeling. Besides quitting smoking, you should also avoid secondhand smoke by staying away from places where people are smoking.
Rest Your Voice
Avoid straining your voice by speaking for long periods or shouting. You can also take vocal rest days to give your throat a much-needed break from communication. Keep your voice at a moderate volume instead of raising it too high.
Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Prevent Reflux
If acid reflux is the cause of a globus sensation, a few lifestyle changes can reduce the sensation. These include:
- Eating three hours before going to bed
- Avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux, such as spicy foods
- Losing excess weight
When to See a Doctor For Lump in Throat Feeling
In some cases, symptoms of globus sensation can indicate serious underlying health conditions. You should consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic hoarseness or throat clearing
- Persistent cough or sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes
It’s best to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
Don't let the feeling of a lump in your throat due to allergies take over your life. Our allergy doctors at Wyndly will use a convenient allergy test to determine the exact allergen triggering this uncomfortable feeling and develop a personalized immunotherapy treatment plan to improve your quality of life. Take our allergy assessment to get started on your path to relief.