Lymph Node Locations in Head, Ear, Neck, Chest, Back, Arms, Armpit, Stomach, Legs, Groin, Pictures & Diagrams

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Do you know the various lymph node locations in your body? This post explores the distribution of lymph nodes in the human body, including those that lie in the head, ear, neck, chest, back, and stomach. Are lymph nodes also found in the arms and legs? Read on to find out why you might have either experienced pain or even developed a painful lump in your armpit or groin. The pictures and diagrams factored into the post will certainly help you understand better the locations and significance of the lymph nodes in your body.

What Are Lymph Nodes and What Are Their Functions?

What is a lymph node?
Lymph node structure

Although this post is intended to discuss the location of lymph nodes in humans, it is worthwhile to begin with a short account on what lymph nodes are and their significance in the body. Lymph nodes are small kidney-like oval organs that are part of the lymphatic system. They store a certain type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. The main function of lymph nodes is to help fight germs, infections and any other foreign substances that may get into the body. Consequently, they are essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, where they act as antigen filters.

The lymph fluid continuously circulates through the lymph nodes and the blood stream. Antigens may be taken up by the lymph fluid into the lymphatic system and eventually into the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes respond to the presence of antigens by producing antibodies. The antibodies are then circulated back into the blood stream to fight the pathogens producing the antigens. Failure of the antibodies to fight the pathogens stimulates the general immune system to help in the fight. It is the increased number of cells fighting the pathogens that make the lymph nodes to expand, resulting in a swollen lymph nodes or enlarged lymph nodes. The swelling may in turn lead to painful lymph nodes in the various parts of the body where they are located.

Lymph Node Locations in Body

Lymph node locations chart
Lymph node locations chart

Now that you acknowledge the importance of lymph nodes in human beings, understanding their locations in your body is equally significant. You will no doubt appreciate certain changes and experiences you undergo as a result of functioning of the lymph nodes which are found in various parts of your body.  These experiences include having lumps and pain in the groin, armpit, stomach and behind the ear.

In human beings, there are about 500 to 600 lymph nodes which are distributed throughout the body.  However, the distribution of lymph nodes in the body is not even. They are found in clusters in some parts of the body, especially in the armpits, groin, neck, chest, abdomen, and behind the ear.

Lymph Node Location Pictures, Diagrams and Chart

We have included descriptive pictures and diagrams at the relevant sections of this post to illustrate the various lymph node locations in the human body. Besides, we have inserted a good lymph node location chart above. You can still get more pictures, diagrams and charts of locations of lymph nodes by searching for them on the internet.

Lymph Node Locations in Head

The lymph nodes located in the head are classified into three main groups: occipital lymph nodes, mastoid lymph nodes and parotid lymph nodes.

Lymph node locations in head -
Lymph node locations in head

Mastoid Lymph Nodes

The mastoid lymph nodes, also called retroauricular lymph nodes or posterior auricular glands, are located below the ear, near the mastoid insertion. Mastoid lymph nodes receive lymph from the upper part of the ear and the rear part of the ear canal and passes to the superior deep cervical glands.

Parotid Lymph Nodes

These are lymph nodes that are situated on both sides of the mouth in front of each of the ears. Parotic lymph nodes receive lymph from the parotid gland and drain it into the deep cervical area.

Occipital Lymph Nodes

Occipital lymph nodes are the lymph nodes found behind the ear. See Lymph nodes behind ear below.

Lymph Node Locations behind Ear

Lymph nodes behind ear - occipital
Lymph nodes behind ear

The lymph nodes behind the ear (located on the lower part of the back of the head) are called occipital Lymph Nodes. Occipital lymph nodes receive lymph from the occipital part of the head and pass it into the superior deep cervical lymph glands. As they fight germs, they may get infected and cause swollen occipital lymph nodes. Furthermore, it is worth noting that having a lump behind ear may be a sign that the nodes behind your ear are swollen. For more information about lymph nodes behind ear see our post on swollen lymph nodes behind ear.

Lymph Node Locations in Neck (Cervical Lymph Nodes)

The lymph nodes located in the neck are also called cervical lymph nodes. There are about 300 lymph nodes located in the neck area. These nodes are group into two main categories: the anterior lymph nodes ant the posterior lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes in neck - cervical
Lymph nodes in neck

Anterior Cervical Lymph Nodes

Anterior cervical nodes generally lie along the front part of the neck. They are further subdivided into various groups depending on their exact location in the neck.

  1. Submental nodes lymph are located under the jawline.
  2. Submaxillary or tonsillar lymph nodes are located under the chin.
  3. Prelaryngeal lymph nodes are those that are positioned in front of the voice box and around the center of the neck
  4. Thyroid lymph nodes are the nodes are located in the middle of and above the collarbone close to the thyroid gland.
  5. Pretracheal lymph nodes lie in front of the windpipe (trachea) and at the lower part of the center of the neck
  6. Paratracheal lymph nodes are positioned close to the sides of the windpipe.

Posterior Cervical Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes in the back of neck - cervical lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in the back of neck

Posterior cervical lymph nodes are those that are located at the back of the neck. They drain lymph of the head, scalp and neck

Infections, especially glandular fever and bacterial infections like strep throat and tonsillitis are the common causes of swollen cervical lymph nodes. However, inflammation may also cause swollen neck nodes. Furthermore, cancers that affect blood Leukemia) and the lymphatic system may cause lymph nodes located in the neck to swell. Swollen lymph nodes of the neck are one of the common causes of a lump in neck.

Lymph Node Locations in Arms

The lymph nodes in arm are divided into two main groups: superficial lymph nodes and deep lymph nodes.

Superficial lymph nodes are distributed through the arm, but mainly on the palm and the flexors of the fingers. They drain the whole arm. Deep lymph nodes of the arm consist of the lymph nodes located in the armpit. See Lymph Nodes in Armpit below.

Lymph Node Locations in Armpit

The lymph nodes located in the armpit or underarm lymph nodes are also called axillary lymph nodes. There are about 20 t0 49 lymph nodes in armpit. They are classified into five groups according to their exact location in the armpit:

Lymph nodes in armpit - axillary lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in armpit
  1. Anterior (pectoral) group: These are located at the lower part of pectoralis minor (a thin flat triangular muscle located at the upper section of the chest. These group of lymph nodes receive lymphatic fluid from the breasts and the upper parts of the abdomen.
  2. Posterior (subscapular) group: These are located at the lower region of the armpit’s rear wall
  3. Lateral (brachial) group: Lymph nodes in this group are situated medially and horizontally to the side of the posterior group. They receive most of the lymph from the arms.
  4. Central (intermediate) group: This group lies centrally between the lateral group and the posterior group. It receives lymph from the anterior, posterior and lateral groups and passes it to the apical lymph node group.
  5. Apical group (medial or subclavicular) group: This group of axillary lymph nodes is found at the upper part of the pectoralis minor. It collects lymph from all the other axillary lymph node groups.

Infraclavicular (deltopectoral) is a group of lymph nodes which are located between the Pectoralis major and Deltoideus, near the shoulder. Since they do not actually lie in the armpit, they are not considered to be axillary lymph nodes. They receive lymph from the hands and the arms.

Have you ever experienced some pain in the armpit? It might have been as a result of a painful lump in your armpit. One of the common causes of such painful lumps in armpits is swollen axillary lymph nodes. The swollen axillary lymph nodes are usually caused by an injury or infection to your arm or hand. Though rare, breast cancer or cancer of the lymphatic system (lymphoma) may also cause your axillary lymph nodes to swell and become painful.

Armpit lymph nodes or Lymph nodes under arm are very significant in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.  At its initial stage, breast cancer develops as a lump in the breast. The breast cancer then gradually spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Subsequently, it finds its way into the lymphatic system and spreads to the other parts of the body. During the treatment of breast cancer, axillary lymph nodes are usually surgically removed and examined to determine the extent to which the breast cancer has spread and the stage of the breast cancer.

Lymph Node Locations in Chest (Thoracic Lymph Nodes)

The lymph nodes in chest lie above the rib cage and below the neck. They are also called the thoracic lymph nodes. The lymph nodes consist of parietal lymph nodes which are situated along the wall of the thorax, and visceral lymph nodes, which are found in the internal organs of the chest. Lymph nodes in chest are further classified into sub-groups:

Lymph node locations in chest - thoracic lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in chest
  • The lymph nodes of the lungs or lung lymph nodes, which are located in and along the bronchus of each lung. These lymph nodes pass the lymph to the mediastina lymph nodes.
  • The tracheobronchial lymph nodes, which are located in the area where the trachea and the bronchi connect. They receive lymph from the heart, the lungs and the trachea.
  • The mediastina lymph nodes, which encompass many smaller groups of lymph nodes located along the trachea, and between the lungs and the diaphragm. They pass lymph into the thoracic aorta.
  • The chest wall thoracic lymph nodes, which receive lymph from the breasts, arms, and other tissues found in the upper part of the chest.

Lymph Node Locations in Back

Lymph nodes in back are mainly located at the lower back and upper back. The lymph nodes in the lower and upper pats of your back may also swell for various reasons. Swollen lymph nodes in back are generally caused by bacterial or viral infections. However, the rare and dangerous cause of the swelling may be cancer of the lymphatic system (lymphoma). Therefore, swollen lymph nodes in back should not be taken for granted, as is the tendency. In fact, any swollen lymph nodes should be properly diagnosed by your personal physician in order to rule out Lymphoma.

Lymph Node Locations in Stomach (Abdomen)

The lymph nodes located in the stomach comprise:

  1. The retroaortic (also called preaortic) lymph nodes, which lie below the cisterna chyli, on the lumbar vertebrae.
  2. The paraaortic lymph nodes, which are located in front of the lumbar vertebrae
  3. Mesenteric lymph nodes, which are classified into two groups:
  • Superior mesenteric lymph nodes, which are further grouped into three clusters: the mesenteric, ileocolic and mesocolic lymph nodes.
  • Inferior mesenteric lymph nodes, which are also further classified into three sub groups: small glands nodes, which are located on the left colic and sigmoid arteries; a group in the sigmoid mesocolon and a pararectal group, which are in contact with the rectum nodes.

    Lymph nodes in stomach or abdomen - paraaortic, mesenteric and preaortic
    Lymph nodes in stomach

Paraaortic lymph nodes receive lymph from the abdominal organs and pass it to the inferior mesenteric lymph nodes. The inferior mesenteric lymph nodes pass lymph into the superior mesenteric lymph nodes, which in turn pass it into the preaortic lymph nodes.

In case you experience abdominal pain, it may be as a result of swollen lymph nodes in stomach. The temporary condition of abdominal pain is called mesenteric adenitis. It may be caused by viral infections in the stomach. Less often, bacterial infections may also cause the lymph glands to become inflamed and swell.

Lymph Node Locations in Legs

There are about 6 to 7 lymph nodes located in the ‘knee pit’ of the legs. They are called popliteal lymph nodes. The popliteal lymph nodes consist of two subgroups:

  1. Deep popliteal lymph nodes, which are positioned close to the popliteal vessels.
  2. Superficial popliteal lymph nodes, which are located near the end of small saphenous vein.

One of the popliteal lymph nodes drains lymph from the posterolateral side of the leg and the plantar of the foot. Another one receives the lymph from the knee-joint area.

Lymph Nodes Locations in Groin

The lymph nodes located in the groin are also called inguinal lymph nodes. There are two layers of inguinal lymph nodes: the superficial inguinal lymph nodes and the deep inguinal nodes.

Superficial inguinal lymph nodes are located deep below the Camper’s fascia. They are found in the upper inner thigh in an area called the femoral triangle of the Scarpa. They are thus also referred to as femoral lymph nodes. There are about 10 superficial inguinal lymph nodes. They drain to the deep inguinal nodes.

Deep inguinal lymph nodes are located under the cribriform fascia (the tissue that connects the upper and inner thigh) and in the middle of the femoral vein. There are approximately 3 to 5 deep inguinal lymph nodes located within the femoral triangle. These lymph nodes drain to the external iliac lymph nodes of the body, the pelvic lymph nodes and the paraaortic lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes in groin or Inguinal lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in groin

You might have had some pain in your groin and you didn’t know the cause. The pain in groin may be due to enlarged lymph nodes in your groin. If you sustain an injury, or contract an infection, in your foot, leg, groin or genitals, you may develop swollen lymph nodes in groin.  The swollen lymph nodes are responsible for the pain in your groin. Now, you should now be able to connect the pain you might have once experienced in your groin to the some injury or infection in those areas mentioned above. Other rare causes of swollen lymph node in groin are testicular cancer, melanoma or lymphoma.

As we have seen, lymph nodes are scattered throughout our bodies. More importantly, they are a vital part of the immune system and may indicate various health issue, especially if they lymph nodes are swollen and painful. Usually they include injuries, bacterial infection or viral infections.  Some of the reasons why lymph nodes are swollen may not be a serious threat to your health. However, others, though rare, may be dangerous, especially if it is cancer. Hence, it is worth learning about swollen lymph nodes in groin, armpit, neck, behind ear and other parts of the body.  You definitely need to understand the symptoms, dangers, causes and treatment of swollen lymph nodes in various parts of your body.

Lastly, we hope that you have gained quite some knowledge about the location of lymph nodes in your body. If there is any comment, suggestion or addition you would like make, or any question you would like to ask, kindly feel very welcome to share it in our comment form below.

Our Sources and References

  1. Swollen Lymph Nodes – Topic Overview: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/swollen-lymph-nodes-topic-overview#1
  2. Axillary lymph node group: http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/axillary-lymph-nodes
  3. Cervical lymph node group: http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/cervical-lymph-nodes
  4. Mesenteric Adenitis: http://patient.info/health/mesenteric-adenitis
  5. Illustrations of lymph node locations: http://www.nhlcyberfamily.org/nodes.htm
  6. What Do Lymph Nodes in the Back Indicate? http://www.healthyhippie.net/what-do-lymph-nodes-in-the-back-indicate/

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