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When Neck Pain is More Than Just a Sore Muscle

April 24, 2018

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Photo Courtesy: Abby Miller / Instagram

By Steve Blanchard

That pain in your neck could be more than just a sore muscle. If you’re a fan of reality television, you may have read that Abby Lee Miller, the star of the former hit show Dance Moms, was recently diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The diagnosis came after she experienced extreme neck pain.

Dr. Michael Jain, a hematologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, says it’s rare for neck pain to be an indication of cancer, but it’s not unheard of, especially if the cancer is aggressive.

“It’s possible for someone to have sudden, excruciating neck pain given there are a lot of lymph nodes in the neck,” Jain explains.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the body’s white blood cells, which is part of the body’s immune system, and impacts the body’s lymphatic system.

In an aggressive case of lymphoma, a patient might notice tingling or numbing in their limbs or paralysis, like Miller experienced. That can happen when there's a mass growing in the neck that gets so big that it presses on nerves that run down your body, according to Jain.

In the case of the reality star, doctors surgically relieved pressure on her vertebrae to relieve some of the pain. Tissue samples from that surgery indicated non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

There is an obvious difference between “normal” neck pain and the excruciating pain expressed by Miller. If you have concerns, see your doctor for an expert opinion.