The esophagus is a muscular tube that contracts in a wavelike manner during swallowing to help move the food and liquid you eat and drink to your stomach. Sometimes, the esophagus spasms and contracts, which can lead to choking. The cause of esophageal spasms is not known, but extremely hot or cold foods sometimes trigger the spasms in some people.
Keep track of how often and severe your esophageal spasms occur. You will need this information to tell your doctor to help with your diagnosis. Esophageal spasms can be chronic or acute, and may occur often or intermittently.
Mix a small amount of peppermint oil with water and drink the mixture. This is a natural remedy to make the muscles of the esophagus contract normally again. Consult with your doctor for exact amounts per day.
Visit the doctor or surgery center for medical tests. If your esophageal spasms are severe or chronic, your doctor may want you to drink barium and undergo an X-ray to see where the muscles are contracting in an uncoordinated fashion. You may also need to have an upper GI endoscopy performed if you have trouble swallowing food. The endoscopy consists of putting a tube down your throat with a camera attached to allow the doctor to see the inside of the esophagus.
Take medication to help reduce the spasms. Acute spasms can sometimes be treated with a nitroglycerin tablet dissolved under the tongue. Chronic cases sometimes are treated with a low-dose of an antidepressant.
Botox injections are an option to relax your esophagus, particularly during the upper GI endoscopy. You may need to get repeat injections.
In extreme cases that do not respond to medication or Botox injections, esophageal surgery can cut through the muscle layers to weaken the esophageal muscle, resulting in fewer or diminished spasms.
Don't treat yourself without first consulting with a doctor about your condition.
Contact your physician if you experience symptoms of an esophageal spasm that won't go away.
Avoid hot or cold foods if they cause esophageal spasms.
Is This an Emergency?
- "Gastrointestinal Endoscopy"; Treatment of Symptomatic Diffuse Esophageal Spasm by Endoscopic Injections of Botulinum Toxin -- A Prospective Study with Long-Term Follow-Up; M. Storr et al.; 2001
- "Diseases of the Esophagus"; Botulinum Toxin in the Treatment of Diffuse Esophageal Spasm; M. Bashashati et al.; 2010
- Cedars-Sinai: Diffuse Esophageal Spasm
- MedlinePlus: Esophageal Spasm