Lump on Back of Neck: Possible Causes

Published on: July 4, 2021
A man touching a lump on the back of his neck.

Lumps and bumps that appear on your body can be signs or symptoms of health conditions. While some lumps may be benign and no reason for concern, others can be symptoms of a serious medical problem. If you find a lump on neck areas like the side or back, there are a few possible causes. When you have a lump on the back of your neck or near the hairline, it may be a symptom of a medical issue. Here is what you need to know about neck lumps, possible causes of lumps on the neck and when you should see a doctor for diagnosis.

Before discussing possible causes of lumps, it is important to remember that most lumps on or under the skin are not harmful. There is no reason to panic when you find a lump in most areas of the body, but it is good to check for any changes to your skin or underlying tissues. If you find a lump on neck skin or below the skin, it is likely harmless, but it should always be monitored in case it is caused by a more serious health concern.

Symptom: Lump on Back of Neck

If you find a lump on the back of the neck or a lump on back of neck hairline, it may be a symptom of a few different conditions. The size, formation and other symptoms can give you a clue of the possible cause. Here are some of the most common conditions where a lump on the back of the neck is a symptom.

Skin Irritations
The back of the neck near the hairline is a common place for skin irritation. Sweat, dirt and oil can accumulate under the hair on the neck, resulting in acne or rashes. Collars, necklaces or accessories can rub against the neck and hairline, creating ingrown hairs, clogged pores, allergic reactions to detergents and other issues. The hair itself can irritate the skin due to shampoo/conditioner and hair products. Dermatologists can recommend treatments for skin irritations or breakouts that cause lumps on back of neck.
There are many types of cysts that can form under the skin. These sacs of fluid or semi-solid substances are usually harmless. Sebaceous cysts are a common cyst that can create a lump on the neck, head or torso. These are benign cysts and usually not painful or harmful, caused by a blocked or damaged sebaceous gland in the skin.
Another common cause of a lump on back of neck is a lipoma. These are soft, fatty deposits under the skin that are usually smaller than 5mm in diameter. Lipomas are not cancerous and usually do not cause pain. If they are painful or cause irritation, they can be removed by a doctor or dermatologist.
Acne, cysts and hair follicles that become infected on the back of the neck can result in boils. If a lump on back of neck is red and painful, it may be a boil. Do not squeeze boils – apply a warm compress and keep the skin clean. If the boil does not dissipate in a few days, see a doctor for treatment.

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Swollen Lymph Nodes
A lump on back of neck at the hairline may be a swollen lymph node. There are several lymph nodes along the back of the neck and hairline that are part of your immune system. If your body is fighting off an infection or disease, the lymph nodes can become swollen, creating one or more lumps on the back of the neck along the hairline. Common ailments like colds, flu or strep throat can result in these lymph nodes swelling as they work to fight the infection. Less commonly, lymph nodes can be swollen for more serious diseases, including lymphoma or cancer of the lymphatic system.

When To See a Doctor for Neck Lumps

Most bumps or lumps on the back of neck near the hair line are not harmless. Most cysts, lipomas, acne, boils and even swollen lymph nodes are not dangerous. However, if you have a lump on neck that is painful or does not go away in a few weeks, you may want to have it examined by a doctor. Many lumps like cysts or lipomas can be removed with a quick in-office procedure and there are medications for skin irritations. If the lump is a symptom of something more serious, early detection is the best chance for effective treatment.

A woman touching a lump on the back of her neck.

There is no reason to panic if you feel a lump on the back of your neck. Most lumps or bumps will go away on their own and are not a health threat. If you are concerned about a lump on back of neck or the bump is causing pain, contact your primary care doctor or a dermatologist for an exam, diagnosis and treatment.

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