Lump in the throat

This problem has come up a few times in practice and it can obviously be quite distressing to the person it is affecting. The sensation is described of a lump in the throat especially at the point of swallowing and it can range from being slightly annoying all the way to feeling like a sense of choking!

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Anatomy of the problem

What we are talking about here is when there are no other signs of infection or physical obstruction in the throat but nevertheless there is still a persistent feeling of ‘something’ being wrong or of ‘something’ being there anyway. In the absence of a physical problem this appears to be a condition that is caused by nervous tension and anxiety. People manifest symptoms of tension in a number of characteristic ways and this is one of them.

What then happens is that the tightening up of the delicate throat structures involved in swallowing and speech becomes a source of anxiety in itself and the problem gets intensified further. The medical term for this problem is ‘globus hystericus’. The related word hysterical is obviously not a very nice or flattering one and is strongly reminiscent of a paternalistic and patronising medical establishment but I thought I would give the ‘name’ here to assist an understanding of this being a widespread and long established problem for others as well.

Once you know what it is and why you have the lump in the throat then this is a problem that can be easy to resolve. The sensation in the throat is anything but imaginary for all that its origins may be in the nervous system. First of all you have to get a firm grasp on the reality that there is a physical tightening up of the tissues. Then you can take some simple steps to do something about it.

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Physically relax the tissues

Physically relaxing the tissues in your throat basically means using heat or massage or both. Heat can be used in the form of a warm towel, a heated wheat bag, basically anything that safely and comfortably gets a warm and penetrating heat into the area for a few minutes.

Simply using heat may be sufficient in itself for some people because nearly everyone gets tenser in the cold and conversely more relaxed with heat. If it isn’t making an obvious difference straight away then add the next step, massage.

Massage over the throat is something most people would not instinctively ask for, or do, themselves but it is really no different to any other delicate part of your anatomy,  just be gentle. Whatever you do should not hurt, you will feel a lot of sensation but that is not the same thing as pain. Small, soft circular motions around the affected area that are firm enough to feel but not enough to hurt will help the problem to resolve.

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Take herbs that act on the area

I have also found a simple herbal treatment to be effective in helping to cure the ‘lump in the throat’.  A regular and repeated gargle and swallow of the herbs Cramp Bark, Wild Yam and Chamomile has reliably helped each time I have used them for this problem.

This is an example of the formula I have used

15mls Cramp Bark
15mls Wild Yam
15mls Chamomile
5mls Licorice root

Take 2 mls (1/2 a tsp.) in just a little water, gargle and move around the back of the throat for a good 10-20 seconds before swallowing. Repeat the treatment at least 4 times a day until the symptoms have gone or you have finished the course.

Another herbal treatment that may be highly effective is if some reflux from the stomach has been causing the throat to become sore or inflamed. In which case the detailed advice given in my article on gastritis will be certain to help - you can find it here.

If there is any truth whatsoever in the suggestion that an increase in anxiety may be the root cause of this problem then I urge you to carefully read my detailed article on this important subject and to apply the practical suggestions put together there because, if taken diligently, they always work! Read it here.


Viburnum opulus (Cramp bark)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd