Why do we sometimes get a ‘lump in our throats’ when we are about to cry?

Asked by Lady Lightning on the How It Works forum

That ‘lump’ is actually not a lump at all but a counter-reaction to the body’s automatic nervous system. When humans are exposed to stressful situations – ie, situations that would cause them to cry or get angry – the body, due to the genetic evolutionary ‘fight or flight’ nature of humans, automatically increases blood flow to vital organs and muscles.

Unfortunately, one of the ways the body achieves this is by opening the glottis (the vocal folds in the throat that humans use to generate vibrational noise) in order to allow your lungs to receive more inhaled oxygen than normal. By doing this, while increasing available oxygen which can be beneficial in stressful moments, it causes any human who wishes to swallow to fight against their body’s automatic nervous system for control of the glottis’ positioning, causing that distinctive sore pain in the throat.