There is no specific condition that causes pain in the throat while yawning. However, yawning may exacerbate existing pain in the throat due to an underlying condition, such as an infection or an abscess.

The cause of throat pain may depend on the location, duration, and type of pain. Throat pain may feel itchy, sharp, or rough. It may affect the entire throat or just one area.

Yawning does not typically cause throat pain. However, neck stretching that occurs during a yawn could worsen existing pain in the throat.

Throat pain or soreness is not usually something to worry about and may pass within a few days. However, people should speak with a doctor if pain persists or occurs with other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing.

This article reviews some of the potential causes of pain in the throat, ways to treat a sore throat at home, and when to speak with a doctor.

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Throat pain that worsens during a yawn does not point to any specific diagnosis. Some conditions may cause difficulty extending or flexing the neck, which may make pain appear worse when yawning.

However, doctors will usually need to examine other symptoms and carry out tests to determine why a person’s throat is hurting.

There are many conditions that can cause throat pain. Some of these may cause symptoms, such as swollen tonsils, that might make pain more noticeable when yawning.


About 50–80% of all sore throats arise from viral infections. Possible viral causes of sore throat include:

Bacterial infections may also cause a sore throat. Streptococci causes 5–36% of acute sore throat cases.

Throat pain due to a viral or bacterial infection typically affects both sides of the throat, lasts around 5–7 days, and does not worsen with time.


When irritants come into contact with the throat, they can cause pain, which may worsen when yawning. According to research from 2017, irritants that can cause a sore throat include the following:

  • tobacco smoke
  • chemicals
  • smog
  • hot or dry air
  • hot foods and liquids


Abscesses are lumps of tissue that can contain a buildup of pus. When they occur in the neck, abscesses may cause throat pain and soreness.

Two types of abscesses that may cause throat pain include:

Peritonsillar abscesses can cause pain on both sides of the throat that increases over time. However, pain is often worse on the side with the abscess.

People may also experience difficulty swallowing, earache, and muffled speech. The pain and inflammation may cause difficulty opening the mouth, such as when yawning.

Retropharyngeal abscesses can cause pain and discomfort when the neck extends, which may happen during a yawn. Other symptoms include swelling, stiffness, and difficulty swallowing.

Both types of abscesses can be serious, especially without treatment. People should speak with a doctor if they suspect this is the cause of their throat pain.


Epiglottitis is an infection that causes swelling of the epiglottis, a small disk of cartilage that covers the upper windpipe. This swelling can restrict a person’s breathing, which can be life threatening.

As well as causing a sore throat, epiglottitis can cause the following symptoms:

Symptoms and pain or discomfort may be mild initially but can worsen dramatically.

Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease is another potential cause of a sore throat. This condition arises when blood vessels become inflamed, causing potential problems with blood vessels that supply blood to the heart.

This condition can affect lymph nodes and mucous membranes inside the throat. It is most common in children under age 5 but can occur at any age.

As well as throat pain, symptoms of Kawasaki disease include:

Head and neck cancer

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service , cancer can develop in a person’s voice box and in the throat.

Symptoms of cancer in these areas may include:

  • swelling or a lump in the throat
  • persistent pain or soreness
  • difficulty swallowing
  • changes to the voice

The best treatment plan for throat pain may depend on the underlying cause of the pain. Healthcare professionals can advise individuals on the best steps to treat throat pain based on their diagnosis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps to ease a sore throat at home:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Suck on sore throat lozenges, popsicles, or ice chips.
  • Gargle salt water.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Consume warm drinks.
  • Use a humidifier.

A painful throat is not usually anything to worry about. However, if a person is concerned about their pain, or soreness does not go away after a few days, they can speak with a doctor.

People should speak with a doctor if throat pain occurs alongside the following symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing
  • blood in saliva
  • excessive drooling, particularly in young children
  • difficulty swallowing
  • rash
  • a lump in the throat
  • dehydration

Pain while yawning does not typically indicate any specific condition. However, some conditions may make it painful to stretch the neck, which may occur during a yawn.

The most common cause of throat pain is a viral infection, like the common cold. Bacterial infections may cause a sore throat, although this is less common. It is also normal for irritants like smog and cigarette smoke to cause throat pain.

In rarer cases, a painful throat may indicate a more serious issue. These include abscesses, Kawasaki disease, and epiglottitis. People with persistent throat pain or serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing should contact a doctor.