How to Identify an Esophageal Spasm

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Most people just think of their esophagus as their throat, but it is actually a complex organ that is a significant part of the digestive tract. When it spasms, it could easily be mistaken for a heart attack, since the pain is in the middle of the chest, so it's important to be able to identify an esophageal spasm.

  • Identify where the pain is. Is it directly in the middle of your chest? If it is, and there is an absence of jaw or arm pain, it is probably an esophageal spasm.

  • Do a mental checklist of recent activities or symptoms coming from or involving your esophagus. Note whether or not there has been excessive stress in your life recently, and whether or not you have recently eaten something spicy, or very hot and then very cold, such as hot soup followed by ice cream.

  • Note whether or not food "sticks" when you eat--when you swallow, the food doesn't go down, or once it does, you can feel it travel very slowly, ending with a "sticky release" in the middle of your chest, and if you try to push it through with water, it backs up in your esophagus. This is an uncomfortable feeling, and is indicative of a possible esophageal spasm.

  • Note if, when you go to bed, you have a constant desire to belch without relief. This may be exacerbated by chronic indigestion.

  • Rule out a heart attack. Heart attacks typically are extremely painful, and there will typically be nausea and sweating as well as jaw or arm pain radiating from the chest.

  • Try a liquid antacid to soothe the esophagus. Lie down on your left side and relax to see if the spasm will pass.

  • Esophageal spasms can be very painful. They do mimic heart attacks, therefore, While this article helps in identifying esophageal spasm, you should always take the road of "Better safe than sorry." If you have any chest pain that you are uncomfortable with, call the doctor.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep a notebook of your symptoms.
  • Try a liquid antacid to soothe the esophagus. Lie down on your left side and relax to see if the spasm will pass.
  • While this article helps in identifying esophageal spasm, you should always take the road of "better safe than sorry." If you have any chest pain that you are uncomfortable with, call the doctor.
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