An esophageal spasm is a condition that causes painful and abnormal contractions of the muscles that happens within the esophagus. Generally, the esophagus is a thin muscular tube that sends foods to the stomach. In adults it is 10 inches long with muscular walls and lined with mucus membranes.
What are the causes?
- GERD or gastroesophageal reflex disease and result to scarring or narrowing of the esophagus.
- Foods that are too hot or too cold and drinks such as red wine
- Treatments for cancer such as surgery of the esophagus or radiation on the neck, chest or head
- Depression and anxiety
What are the types?
- Distal esophageal spasms – uncoordinated spasms that happens with regurgitation, or food or liquids goes back up after swallowing them
- Nutcracker esophageal spasms – twisted or corkscrew-shaped esophagus causes a severe spasms.
Signs of an esophageal spasm
- Chest pain and difficulty with swallowing
- Feeling like having a heart attack
- A feeling that is inside the throat or chest
- Regurgitation of liquid or food back up into the mouth
- Esophageal dilatation, a device is placed down the esophagus to open and stretch narrow areas in the esophagus. This procedure is done several times until symptoms are reduced.
- Prescribed medications to relax and lessen the pain of the muscles of the esophagus.
- Prescribed medications for underlying condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn, depression and anxiety to lessen the symptoms of esophageal spasms. The antidepressants can lessen the pain in the esophagus.
- Change eating habits by avoid foods that cause the spasms. Avoid eating too hot or too cold foods and drink to lessen the stress on the esophagus and result to spasms. Avoid spicy foods to prevent further irritations and delay the healing.
- Eat several small meals throughout the day or eat 5-6 meals with small serving sizes rather than 2-3 big meals. This will lessen the spasms of the esophagus and proper digestion of food.
- Raise the bed at least 15-20 centimeters to lessen difficulty with sleeping at night. Another alternative use a prescribed pillow that keeps the head elevated when sleeping. After eating wait at least 2-3 hours before lying in bed for better digestion of food and stop heartburn or spasms.
- Perform deep breathing exercises to relax the esophagus. Breathe through the nose for 5 counts and the exhale through the nose for another 5 counts. Repeat this process for at least 2-5 minutes to relax and calm down the spasms.
- Stop smoking. Avoid inhaling the tobacco smoke to prevent further irritations and damages on the esophagus.
- Avoid being overweight to lessen the symptoms of esophageal spasms
- Prescribed botulinum injections into the esophagus, it relaxes the muscles of the esophagus