What Does Thyroid Pain Feel Like?

A small gland situated in our neck is responsible for many functions in our body. It is situated in the neck, often ignored by us, but often a cause of a disease that largely affects women. This gland is the thyroid gland.

It can become a source of pain in the neck, in the literal sense, sometimes so debilitating can the pain is that the ultimate way to deal with it, is to remove the gland.

1. What Is a Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated in the neck right beneath the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland’s function is to produce hormones that are involved in maintaining the basal metabolic rate of the body and a hormone that regulates the level of calcium in the blood. The thyroid adapts according to the needs of the body like when it is growing or in conditions like pregnancy, where more production of thyroid hormones is required.

The hormones involved in the regulation of the basal metabolic rate are known as T3  and T4.

1.1 Function of The Thyroid Hormone T3 and T4

  • Make the temperature of the body rise when needed
  • Quickening the pulse and making the heart beat stronger
  • Food is broken down quickly in order to provide energy
  • Helps in the brain development of children
  • Promote general growth in children
  • Helps in improving concentration and reflexes by activating the nervous system.

1.2 Function of Calcitonin

This is the third hormone produced by the thyroid gland. This thyroid hormone functions to maintain the metabolism of bone, thus helping in maintaining the optimal blood calcium level.

2. What Is a Diseased Thyroid?

There are several diseases of the thyroid gland that can cause a wide array of effects on the body. They are broadly of the following types:

2.1 Underactive Thyroid Gland

This condition is also known as hypothyroidism. A person afflicted with it produces significantly lower amounts of thyroid hormones.

2.2 Overactive Thyroid Gland

This condition is known as hyperthyroidism. In this case, large amounts of  thyroid hormones are produced by the gland.

2.3 Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is a condition in which an inflamed thyroid gland is found. This causes tenderness in the neck, along with other symptoms. It is thought to be an immune reaction of the gland which often follows an infection of the throat. It is considered to be the result of a viral infection.

3. Can a Condition of The Thyroid Cause Pain?

The thyroid pain, due to its location occurs in the neck region. For this very reason, the pain could be originating from the surrounding structures of the neck and throat, and not actually the thyroid gland. A painful thyroid gland is an uncommon situation.

Once the thyroid gland has been zeroed in on the cause of the pain in the neck, diseases of the thyroid that might cause pain are looked at.

3.1 Goiter

The condition which is commonly associated with the thyroid gland is goiter. Goiter is characterized by a huge swelling in the neck. It occurs due to the enlargement of the thyroid gland. The enlargement could be occurring due to a number of reasons and is most commonly associated with too much thyroid hormone being produced.

There are two types of goiter based on the level of thyroid hormones.

3.1.1 Toxic Goiter

This is characterized by an increase in the amount of thyroid hormone.

3.1.2 Non-Toxic Goiter

When the hormone levels are normal, the thyroid gland enlarges nevertheless, it is known as non-toxic goiter.

what does thyroid pain feel like?
By pamai/Unlimphotos. Royalty Free License

Goiter is usually not associated with any pain. It is known to cause a lump in the neck which can cause hoarseness of voice, difficulty in swallowing, feeling of tightness in the neck among others.

3.2 Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is generally of two types. A painless and painful one. The painful type will be discussed further.

The commonest symptom of this uncommon disease is the presence of pain. The gland is swollen like in goiter, but at the same time, it is also inflamed. The pain does have a tendency to spread to the ears and sometimes to the jaw.

This disease is referred to by several names such as Subacute nonsuppurative thyroiditis, giant cell thyroiditis, subacute granulomatous thyroiditis, and De Quervain’s thyroiditis to name a few.

3.2.1 Thyroiditis Symptoms

  • Increase in pain on pressing the swollen gland.
  • Difficulty and pain on swallowing
  • Swelling in the neck

This disorder usually heals on its own, sometimes taking a few weeks and other times taking months to heal. It usually goes through three phases, wherein the symptoms also correspond with the same.

3.2.2 The Three Phases of Thyroiditis:

  • Starts with hyperthyroidism which is the release of increased amounts of hormones.
  • Followed by hypothyroidism, which is characterized by a decreased amount of thyroid hormone production, when the gland starts to heal.
  • The final phase is euthyroidism, wherein the thyroid hormone’s production is stable and normal.

3.3 Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism

3.3.1 Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism that May Present Are:

  • Inability to tolerate heat
  • Disrupted menstrual periods in females
  • Sweating
  • Loss of weight
  • Increased appetite
  • Frequent changes in moods
  • Loss of hair
  • Tremors in hands

3.3.2 Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism that May Present Are:

  • Inability to tolerate heat
  • Disrupted menstrual periods in females
  • Sweating
  • Loss of weight
  • Increased appetite
  • Frequent changes in moods
  • Loss of hair
  • Tremors in hands

3.3.3 Symptoms of Hypothyroidism that Present as The Thyroid Gland Heals:

  • Intolerance to cold
  • Reduced bowel movements i.e., constipation
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Altered menstrual periods  in females (heavy periods)
  • Increased weight
  • Dryness of skin

What causes Thyroid swelling ? What is Subacute Thyroiditis, its management?-Dr. Prakash Mahadevappa

3.4 Thyroid Cancer

Cancer of the thyroid gland occurs when the cells start to divide rapidly in the gland. A thyroid lump is detected while inspecting the gland.

Usually, it presents with no symptoms, but gradually with time, as the gland continues to grow symptoms start to present. When the cancer is in an advanced stage, the growing thyroid gland becomes painful. Thyroid cancer can be slow-growing, however, some of them can be very aggressive. Nonetheless, most thyroid cancers can be easily cured with treatment.

4. What Does Thyroid Pain Feel Like?

Knowing the cause helps the doctor formulate a plan to treat the underlying cause.

The pain is oftentimes not restricted to the site of the thyroid gland. It can easily radiate to the jaws, chin, mouth, and even the ears.

It is an acute pain that can worsen on swallowing. Sometimes when the gland is touched to palpate it by a healthcare professional or unknowingly by the person suffering, acute pain can occur.

The throat can also feel sore and changes in the voice are also observed along with pain. Difficulty swallowing food might also be present. When the pain is persistent without any relief it is usually indicative of a severe thyroid-related problem. The duration of the pain is usually dependent on the underlying cause.

What does pain in thyroid feel like?
By Elnur/Unlimphotos. Royalty Free License

5. Various Treatment Options Available

5.1 Over-the-Counter Medications

To start with, to obtain immediate relief, or short-term treatment of pain, over-the-counter pain medications are a suitable option.

5.2 Treatment for Thyroiditis

If thyroiditis is the reason for pain and neck swelling, painkillers which are good anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen are a good choice. Further, to reduce the swelling, Prednisone is given.

If symptoms of overactive thyroid i.e., hyperthyroidism, present, treatment with beta blockers is instituted. In case of symptoms of hypothyroidism, medicines that replace the thyroid hormones may be required.

Sometimes, when medication does not respond, removal of the thyroid gland remains the only option. The procedure called thyroidectomy is performed, which can be partial or complete.

5.3 If Cancer Is the Cause

Depending on the severity and type of cancer, the treatment options are decided. For small cancers where the growth is slow, constant monitoring with thyroid ultrasound and blood tests is done.

In case of more aggressive cancers, surgery, chemotherapy, radioactive iodine treatment, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy remain some options.

6. When To Seek Help

When symptoms of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism present or any changes in the voice or swelling are noticed in the neck, a doctor’s appointment becomes a must.


Always seek help when in doubt
By iQoncept/Unlimphotos. Royalty free License

7. Conclusion

The thyroid gland is responsible for maintaining the basal metabolic rate of the body. Any disease affecting the thyroid gland causes a swelling in the neck and proceeds to affect the functioning of the body. Acute pain is also a characteristic feature of certain thyroid gland diseases. This pain is experienced in the neck region which can sometimes radiate to the surrounding structures.

Knowing what thyroid pain feels like helps you to be aware of your body, which in turn helps you understand any changes the body might be experiencing and thus, help can be sought.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

8.1 What is a thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is stimulated by the thyroid stimulating hormone released by the brain to release thyroid hormones which function to maintain the basal metabolic rate of the body among other functions.

8.2 Can the thyroid gland have pain?

Yes, pain can be experienced in the thyroid gland when it is affected by some disease or condition like thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, etc. This pain can be acute, requiring immediate attention.

8.3 How does a thyroid pain feel like?

Thyroid pain feels like acute pain in the front side of the neck which can sometimes radiate to the jaws and ears.

Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by