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How to treat esophageal spasms

Esophageal spasms involve erratic, uncoordinated and oftentimes strong contractions of the esophagus. With this condition, the food is prevented from entering the stomach and becomes stuck in the esophagus. A contraction that helps move the food through the esophagus but causes severe pain is called nutcracker esophagus.

The esophagus is the tube that connects the stomach to the mouth. The contraction usually happens in the esophagus which make food move from the mouth to the stomach. These contractions happen regularly and in a coordinated rhythm.

Esophageal spasms happen suddenly with severe chest pain that last for a few minutes up to a few hours. Esophageal spasms can happen due to other conditions such as achalasia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Symptoms

  • Burning sensation or heartburn can be felt in the chest and a feeling that food is stuck in the middle of the chest.
  • Severe sneezing pain can be felt in the chest which spread from the back, arms, jaw and neck which can be mistaken for angina.
  • Difficulty in swallowing food and liquids. There is pain when swallowing foods which is also known as dysphagia.
  • Difficulty in swallowing foods that is extremely hot or cold.
    Esophageal spasms

    Burning sensation or heartburn can be felt in the chest and a feeling that food is stuck in the middle of the chest.

  • Regurgitation or reflux of food and liquids into the esophagus.

If the individual experiences squeezing pain in the chest, seek medical help immediately.

Causes

  • Esophageal spasms can be caused gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Individual ages 60-80 years old face the highest risk for experiencing esophageal spasms.
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Individuals drinking red wine are prone to experience esophageal spasm.
  • Consuming very hot or cold drinks and foods increases the risk of experiencing esophageal spasms.

Treatment

  • Change eating habits such as eating several small meals instead of 2-3 large meals. After eating, wait at least 2-3 hours before lying down. Avoid taking late-night snacks if possible.
  • Avoid chocolate, mint and alcohol to avoid aggravating GERD. Avoid spicy foods that contain a lot of acid such as tomatoes and oranges. In addition, coffee can oftentimes make the GERD symptoms worse in some people.
  • Avoid smoking or using smokeless tobacco
  • If suffering from GERD symptoms at night, elevate the head of the bed about 6-8 inches by placing the frame on blocks or foam wedge placed under the head of the mattress.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing around the middle body.
  • Avoid becoming overweight by maintaining 5-10 pounds.
  • Take the prescribed over-the-counter antacid medications such as Maalox, Mylanta or Tums and stronger acid reducers such as famotidine, ranitidine and omeprazole.
  • Avoid being stressed and perform some exercises regularly and meditation to prevent making the condition worse.
  • Suck on peppermint lozenges that are placed under the tongue.

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