The Link Between Esophageal Spasms and Acid Reflux

Those who suffer from acid reflux and are looking for some acid reflux relief may experience more than complications other than bile reflux. Some acid reflux sufferers experience spasms in their esophagus. Your esophagus connects your throat to your stomach and is structured like a long tube. A healthy esophagus moves food to the stomach through a series of synchronized muscle contractions. Esophageal spasms upset this natural process creating many unpleasant symptoms.

What is an esophageal spasm?
Esophageal spasms occur when the muscle contractions within the esophagus lack coordination and prevent food from properly moving through your esophagus to the stomach. Esophageal spasms affect the muscles that are situated within the walls of the lower esophagus. They can occur in the following two ways:

1. Diffuse spasms – This is when food traveling to the stomach is slowed due to irregular or simultaneous contraction of the esophageal muscles.
2. Nutcracker esophagus – This is when food progresses normally to the stomach, but the muscle contractions are abnormally strong and painful.

Researchers are not exactly sure what causes esophageal spasms, but one theory is that extremely cold, hot or spicy food can trigger a spasm. Another theory is that GERD or heartburn, which causes irritation and inflammation in the esophagus, can trigger a spasm. Whatever the real reason, one fact remains – People who are prone to acid reflux and have GERD are more prone to esophageal spasms, and the chances of developing this condition increases as they age.

The following are some symptoms of this condition that you should be aware of:
- Chest pain that is usually intense and is often mistaken for heart pain. This is the most common symptom.
- Pain when swallowing
- Trouble swallowing
- Feeling something is stuck in the throat
- Regurgitating food
- Heartburn

How are esophageal spasms diagnosed?
This condition can be hard to diagnose due to the fact that its symptoms closely resemble other disorders such as GERD. Nevertheless, should your doctor expect that you suffer from esophageal spasms; the condition may be diagnosed through -

- Barium esophagram – This is the most common test for people who suffer from trouble swallowing. The Barium esophagram utilizes X-rays to examine the esophagus and is the best test for detecting esophageal spasms.
- Esophageal CT scan – This is a test that uses computerized tomography (CT) scans to create and capture cross-sectional sliced images of the inside of the body. The test may reveal that the esophageal muscles have abnormal thickness which could mean esophageal spasms.
- Esophageal manometry test – This test involves the insertion of a thin tube into the esophagus via the mouth or nose. The purpose is to measure how effective the esophageal muscles are during the swallowing process.

Is there treatment for esophageal spasms?
Yes. The following are some suggested treatments:
- Manage underlying conditions – If you are prone to heartburn or suffer from GERD, manage these conditions to reduce your chance of spasms.
- Lifestyle changes – Change your eating habits such as avoid eating certain foods including those that are spicy or acidic, and avoid lying down directly after eating meals. Lifestyle change is also the best way to prevent esophageal spasms from occurring.
- Biofeedback – This is an alternative therapy that teaches you to use your mind to control your body. Electrical sensors help you recognize the way your body responds to psychological stress so you can control it.
- Medication – Muscle relaxants including nitrates or calcium channel blockers are often prescribed to reduce the severity of muscle contractions. Tricyclic antidepressants may also be recommended to help relieve pain.
- Surgery – This treatment is extremely rare but sometimes is the only option in serious cases. Myotmy may be performed to help weaken muscle contractions, or an esophagectomy (the removal of the esophagus) may be needed.

By Kathryn Whittaker. Sign up for a free newsletter that has proven methods for tackling Acid Reflux, Heartburn and GERD head-on at Stop Acid Reflux Now. On the site you’ll also find more about natural cure for heartburn and information on the various cause of heartburn.

Leave a Reply