Esophageal spasms involve an involuntary and sometimes painful contraction in the esophagus. There are a number of different ways a spasm can be triggered, and there are even a couple different types of spasms, so treatment revolves around identifying a number of different factors and trying to pinpoint a solution. Below, we take a closer look at the different types of esophageal spasms, and how they are best treated.
Causes and Types of Esophageal Spasms
Esophageal spasms usually develop in one of two different forms. There are nutcracker spasms, which are intense, painful contractions that do not involve regurgitation of stomach acid or other substances, and there are diffuse esophageal spasms, which are less painful but often involve some substance regurgitation.
Aside from feeling pain, these spasms may also trigger symptoms like difficulty swallowing, heartburn, chest tightness or the feeling that something is stuck in your throat. Esophageal spasms can be caused by eating certain foods, drinking certain fluids, or by underlying health conditions. The key to treatment is to figure out what’s causing the muscle to spasm and to modify your daily habits based on that information.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will have a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with based on your description of symptoms, but they are going to want to confirm their suspicions and rule out any other issues with specific testing. There are two main ways a doctor can check for esophageal spasms. The first involves having the patient drink a special liquid that allows the esophagus to by visible on x-ray. Your doctor can also navigate to the esophagus by inserting a thin, specialized tube into your mouth that can measure contractions in the area. Both tests are minimally invasive and provide a clear picture of what’s going on in your esophagus.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, treatment is usually a series of techniques to find out what keeps spasms at bay. Some common treatments that may be suggested include:
- Recording trigger foods in a journal, and then avoiding those foods
- Getting more exercise
- Drinking more water and less caffeinated beverages
- Managing underlying medical conditions
- Taking medications or certain muscle relaxers
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Avoiding spicy foods or foods that are very hot or very cold
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals instead of fewer, larger meals
- Quitting smoking
If spasms continue despite your best efforts, surgery may be viewed as a last resort. Surgery involves making a small cut in the esophagus to weaken the spasms, but most people find they can control the spasms with non-operative methods. If you have concerns about your spasms or the effectiveness of your current treatment options, reach out to your doctor.
If you’re dealing with esophageal spasms and want to get them under control, give Dr. Koeplin and his team a call. He’s helped others find relief from their esophageal spasms, and he can do the same for you. For more information, contact his office at (651) 224-1347.