When you think of muscle spasms, you probably imagine a twitching or painful sensation in your arm, leg or lower back. While these are some of the most common forms of spasms, they are far from the only muscles prone to spasm. One type of spasms that we help treat in our clinic is the esophageal spasm. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the causes, diagnostic process and treatment of esophageal spasms.
Diagnosing Esophageal Spasms
The esophagus helps push food from your mouth down to the stomach, and it does this in part by contracting and pushing food along. Most people don’t think of this muscular tube in the same way they think of a bicep, but they are both muscles, and in turn they are both prone to spasming. And while many muscle spasms are not a serious issue that requires prompt medical intervention, that doesn’t mean you have to just learn to deal with the spasm. Especially because esophageal spasms can lead to sudden or severe chest pain that can last for hours.
So what tends to cause or trigger esophageal spasms? Some conditions or actions that can increase your risk of an esophageal spasm include:
- Nerve compression or impairment in the area
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- High blood pressure
- Regularly eating or drinking foods or liquids that are very hot or very cold
- Damage from excess alcohol consumption
If you’re dealing with tightness in your chest that comes and goes in waves, if you’re having trouble swallowing or if you’re regurgitating foods or liquids, consider setting up a visit with a GI specialist. We’ll ask you about your symptoms and conduct an imaging test to inspect your esophagus. This may come in the form of an endoscopy, an esophageal manometry, or a contrast X-ray.
Treating Esophageal Spasms
Treatment will vary based on your symptoms and underlying cause of spasm. For some patients, only moderate lifestyle changes will be necessary. For example, changing your diet and being mindful of your alcohol intake can help to calm irritating spasms. For others, medications to help relax the muscle can help keep spasms at bay. Your underlying cause will help to dictate treatment.
For others with extreme cases or those who don’t respond well to conservative care, surgery may be in the cards. Your doctor can perform an operation to target the area of spasms and help to weaken the muscle at the area to prevent painful contractions. They can also operate to address underlying conditions like GERD or acid reflux disease that may be exacerbating your spasms. Your surgeon can walk you through the specifics based on your individual needs.
So if you are experiencing chest tightness or pain, or you’re having difficulty swallowing and keeping foods down, reach out to a gastrointestinal surgeon to learn more about what’s going on in your body and to develop a treatment plan. Dr. Bhatti has done this for countless patients in the past, and he can do the same for you. For more information, give his clinic a call today at (651) 430-3800.