Muscle Pain

10 Steps you can take to treat esophageal spasms naturally

Esophageal spasms are sometimes called nutcracker esophagus, though this is actually only one of the types of spasm.

People afflicted have irregular, uncoordinated, and sometimes powerful contractions of the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

Normally, contractions of the esophagus are coordinated, moving the food through the esophagus and into the stomach.

There are two main types of esophageal spasm. First, there is something called the diffuse esophageal spasm.

This type of spasm is an irregular, uncoordinated squeezing of the muscles of the esophagus. This can prevent food from reaching the stomach, leaving it stuck in the esophagus.

Second is something called nutcracker esophagus. This type of spasm squeezes the esophagus in a coordinated way, the same way food is normally moved down the esophagus.

However, the squeezing is very strong. So while these contractions succeed in moving food through the esophagus, they can also cause severe pain.

It’s possible to have both types of esophageal spasm occur, and so the presence of one type doesn’t preclude suffering from the other type.

Be certain what you have

Esophageal spasms are uncommon, and can often feel like a heart attack. It’s important that you see a doctor to ensure that what you have are esophageal spasms and not something more serious.

In addition, symptoms that may suggest an esophageal spasm are often the result of another condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or achalasia, a problem with the nervous system in which the muscles of the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter don’t work properly. Anxiety or panic attacks can also cause similar symptoms.

Because esophageal spasms can easily be taken for different conditions, other conditions might actually be the root cause of them, and the spasms can look like a variety of other conditions, it is essential that you consult a health professional to ensure you know what you have and can manage it accordingly.

It’s very difficult to take steps to control a condition that hasn’t been definitively diagnosed.

Natural measures to control esophageal spasms are often measures that will be just good for your health generally, which doesn’t necessarily make them any easier to implement, but might be something else to keep in mind while you pursue them.

10 Steps you can take to treat esophageal spasms naturally

Start a Food Diary

In order to keep track of the foods and beverages that trigger or worsen your symptoms, start keeping a log or diary of what you eat.

You will find that certain foods bring on spasms and worsen your condition. There are also foods that will either safe to eat, or will actually provide a benefit to you.

There are foods and beverages that are generally helpful or harmful, including peppermint, which can help relieve symptoms, and caffeine, which is generally a good idea to avoid.

However, to get a better and clear understanding of the effect your diet has on the condition, it is essential that you start logging your intake.

Change your eating habitsAcid reducer

Along with controlling your diet, you’ll probably want to make some changes to your eating schedule.

Eat a number of small meals instead of having two or three large meals. This is also good for general health, and can be useful to help with weight control as well as medical conditions.

Control your weight

If you need to, lose a little weight. Losing even a few pounds can help with symptoms. Focus on losing your first five or ten pounds, and depending on your situation, that might be enough.

A side-effect of esophageal spasms can be weight loss, but it’s better to have control of this yourself, rather than allowing the condition to make you feel weak and undernourished.

Eat more fiber

Increase your fiber consumption to at least forty grams a day. Make sure to include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

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Again, this is a good measure to take just for general health, and helps both with weight control and digestive issues in addition to esophageal conditions.

Avoid alcohol

Avoid alcohol, or keep your consumption to a minimum, drinking it only with meals. Also, the pleasant “side-effects” of alcohol can lower inhibitions and encourage you to indulge and eat known trigger foods.

Avoid hot or cold

Both very hot and very cold food and drink can make things worse. Extreme temperatures put stresses on your esophagus and exacerbate symptoms.

Get some licorice

There has been some success in managing and relieving spasms with deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL.

Unlike a drug, the supplement needs to be taken regularly, and not just to relieve an attack. It comes in chewable tablets and in powder form.

Slowly chew two tablets or take a half-teaspoon of the powder before or between meals and at bedtime. Once your symptoms are under control, you can lower your dosage.

treat esophageal spasms naturally

Wait to lie down

Think of lying down as being like swimming, and leave yourself a good, long time before you lie down after eating.

You have to be quite patient, since it’s best to wait two or three hours. Late-night snacks aren’t a good idea either, since it’s almost inevitable that you’ll lie down for sleep not long after eating.

Stop smoking   

Easier said than done, but avoid using any form of tobacco. You need to relieve the strain that nicotine puts on the body.

Nicotine causes stresses to your esophagus, and inhaling hot smoke through your windpipe will just make things worse.

Make sure you have room to breath

Constriction of the diaphragm and other core muscles can make cause an attack of esophageal spasms. Do not wear tight clothing around your middle.

Blandness

Unfortunately, the general theme of these measures seems to be that bland is better for esophageal contractions.

If you increase fiber intake, avoid spicy food, hot food and alcohol, it might seem almost inevitable that your diet will be terribly bland.

However, if you consider that the alternative might be an attack of very painful spasms, then learning to reconcile yourself to a bland diet is a small price to pay.

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38 Comments

  • The comments above are crazy to me….I wake up with esophageal spasms…..nothing helps…My blood pressure goes sky high…My family calls 911 & it takes days for all the pain to go away & then a few more to get my zapped energy back !

  • Just like Kathy Hench, I too woke up at 1:00 AM with the same symptoms. Nothing seems to help and my blood pressure also goes sky high. I have had this affliction for 1 1/2 years and am 52 years old. When this first happened, I thought I was having a heart attack and went to the ER 3 times. I’ve tried the aloe water, tap water and about the only thing I haven’t had is holy water!

  • Have any of you tried a couple swallows of water? After three weekends in the hospital over the years………..having coronary tests which showed nothing…………tried swallowing an aspirin one night. Pain stopped immediately, Knew it could not be aspirin. Doctor confirmed it………….and I go no where without my water………………..

  • I noticed that my esophageal spasms occur when I eat raw carrots and/or eating too fast. The only thing that stops it is throwing up the food stuck in my esophagus. Even water sometimes does not flow through and backs up- I have almost choked in such cases. However, with a mild spasm, I was able to get the food to go down with a swig of yogurt drink, which is fairly thick.

  • I have spasms in the upper part of the esophagus – made worse when I eat chicken that isn’t chewed well enough. Actually, a bite of bread helps. When this happens, I cannot drink water.

  • drinking glass of water as fast as you can helps my chest pain during esophagus spasms eventhough it is bit painful to drink and it sure did help with chest pain

  • Coffee and stress made my symptoms way worse.
    Now I avoid coffee and chew my food really well, eat sitting straight up and try not to lay down for at least 1 hr after eating. I would say the symptoms are controlled and are decreasing in frequency. I feel the stress at work in the AM is what really brought it on.

  • i have had the esophageal manometry test and ph monitoring along wit endoscopies- The Dr GI says i have nutcracker esophagus- My only symptoms have been constant for throat and recess therer- I am on Levbid twice a day to control spasm but have had this since janjuary and my throat has good and bad days- Anyoneelse have the throat issue and what do I do? they say maybe endoscopy wit botox or dilation No t sure i want o do that

  • My spasms just started about two weeks ago. I usually have high tolerance for pain but this pain is excruciating. It starts as a spasm in my throat and then severe pressure to my chest, shoulders, jaw and teeth. My blood pressure raises to 200/120 but as soon as the spasm release my BP go down to 120/70. I also thought that I was having an MI, only because I have long cardiac history. I went to the hospital they did all the testing and everything was negative. I realized that it had to do with my food intake. My regular MD recommended to go to see GI, I just made an appointment for endoscopy. At this point my doctor recommended stay away from coffee, no meat. She suggests farina, yogurts, something soft and smooth. I follow her suggestions and so far two days no spasms.

  • Benzocaine or lidocaine(sp?). Found in sore throat lozenges seems to be helping me.
    I suck on it quickly,sometimes a second one, sometimes a third. It seems to be helping me.

  • I have experimented with a few different ideas.
    The water and stretch,for me seem to be related. The idea of tilting your head up
    As you drink extends the esophagus.
    I BELIEVE,not certain,but believe that the primary issue is posture related. Specifically a forward tilt of the pelvis may compress the guts and lead to a condition where the esophagus is kinked,like pushing on a string.
    As the guts get compressed, the stomach is pushed up from the bottom that may change its position so that the gas build up in the stomach has no easy way out,leading to an expansion of the stomach fundus. This aggregates the vagus nerve which can open open up a host of problems from cardiac(bradycardia/tachycardia) to spasm to Gerd.
    Now,I use the throat lozenges above ,a workout ball ,as well as a styrofoam lower back massager. I consciously rotate by butt back and roll my shoulders back,giving more room in my chest and guts to the organs.
    I really hope this works for you all.
    Jim

  • Have had them for awhile now. As long as I stay on a bland diet I’m OK. Tried a frozen dinner last night, got 4 or 5 bites down could feel the flash of pain start. I tried water,stretching backwards, holding my arms over my head and shoulders pulled back and so on. Last month I was given Flexeril for back spasms. When esophageal spam started and nothing work going on 3 hours.I thought muscle spasm, esophageal spasm. Took half of a Flexeril pain completely gone in 20 minutes. Esophageal is a muscle.

  • My 5 yr old son has the same problem but we try many thing but still facing the, we can’t stop him for many thing because he is just 5 yr……….. presently we consult to homeopathy Dr. we feel some improvement , but the vomit not stop…………… and his wait is still constant to 15kg……..
    please suggest me any one have the better option ……….. or allopathy will work or not….
    because we had the allopathy treatment of about 5 month………….

  • This is in response to Mark Lehman’s post on 8-15-2015. You mention that you have a regimen for fibromyalgia that works for you. Could you be more specific about the kinds and amounts of supplements that you have found to be beneficial? Thanks!!!

  • I’m 60 years old and have been taking reflux meds for about 6 years or so. Was tested and found I had no reflux. Then the Dr. told me I had spastic esophagus. I have the pains in the chest daily. I also have heart palpitations thrown in. ;( Doesn’t seem to matter what I eat. I also have a lot of mucus in my throat. Anyone else have the mucus with the spasms?

  • I’ve just started taking them and they are awful. Another lady on another sight has said to drink a big glass of water in the one go stops it in its tracks. Massages the esophagus and stops the spasm.

  • I can’t find where anyone else has this as a reaction to antibiotics. It’s horrendous. Switched antibiotics and was fine- until last week. Now have a reaction to that antibiotic too! THEN last night had it yet again- just took my regular night time meds. I have RA so have been taking these for years and years. One of these caused it? Seems crazy.

    Epi Pen helped last antibiotic reaction so we know it’s the trigger- but have NO idea what in blazes is going on!

  • This is a response to Rebecca from November 3rd. I too believe I have esophageal spasms. These episodes are intermittent but when they arise I know right away. At first I thought starchy items like breads and potatoes were the problem but now I think most any foods can trigger it for me. I do think the association of really hot foods or eating too fast have something to do with it. What I found interesting in Rebeccas comment was the mucus. Yes! I get so much mucus build up when I get the spasm that is gags and chokes me. I’m a nurse (Critical care nurse in fact) and I’m struggling with a remedy that works. I also read someone else’s comments about palpitations. I frequently have those too. PVCs or premature ventricular beats. Those started when I was pregnant with my second child. Interestingly enough I was found to have low magnesium levels during that pregnancy. However, I love most all green leafy vegetables. Since magnesium works on smooth muscle and contractility it made me think this could be giving me esophageal issues especially if my Mg level is low. I need to be a little better at taking a magnesium supplement. When I did take it routinely I did feel like the frequency of the spasms was less. Thanks for everyone’s comments and remedy tips. I think I will try the aloe Vera next. I’m not convinced mine is related to GERD either. I’d rather try homeopathic options first.

  • My mother, daughter and I all suffer from this. We all get quick relief from drinking something carbonated. Usually the symptoms stop almost immediately.

  • I had one for the first time lying in a strange position on the recliner. Once I straightened out, it stopped. Scared the heck out of me. I’ve had a spasm before when you eat something that gets stuck but never had the pain without eating. It shot into the front of my neck and chin.

  • I had my first spasm a few days ago. I thought I was going to die on the spot! The pain was so severe and was from the top of my throat down to below my ribs. It also radiated to my neck shoulders and arms. I was taken by ambulance to hospital because of the pain and my blood pressure was sky high. Within a few hours my blood pressure was back to 120/70. I have been booked for tests to rule out heart issues but when I went to see my GP he said although he couldn’t guarantee it wasn’t my heart he personally believes it is esophagus spasms.After reading about them and hearing all your comments ( thank you all) I am positive my GP is right. I have just started drinking coffee several times a week because it relieves my headaches (And I was able to stop headache medication) and also because it has been so hot I have started drinking cold water. I usually only drink warm /hot water.Think those two things along with eating fast maybe caused the problem the other day. I realise now that I have had symptoms for years but this is the first severely painful incident.I was also under huge stress the day it happened. I had 3 days in bed After as was so exhausted.Now will try to change my stressful lifestyle and diet. Re the mucus some people mention I used to choke constantly on mucus.It was quite scary sometimes as I couldn’t swallow and then I would struggle to breathe. I now take garlic and horse radish tablets ( horse radish is good for getting rid of mucus apparently) and I no longer have that problem. If I stop taking them for a few weeks the problem slowly returns.

  • Rushed to hospital in ambulance after seeing Dr over the last week waiting for cardio app’t. Much stress in life, soaring HBP being controlled by Rx. Excruciating chest pressure/pain, radiating down left arm, up into neck, shoulders. Feeling faint barely able or scared to take deep breath/e, even walk. Three ECGs altogether showed -0-; and 2 complete bloodworks showed -0- for heart and/or heart damage enzymes typical for MI, and decent cholesterol, great thyroid and all other #s perfect. Two words came to me in a dream all things: esophageal spasm. Woke up, could not get them out of my mind. Did internet search and OMG there it was and here you are. I have put weight on around my abdomen (very unusual for me) and my posture is suffering from laziness and old age I guess. EXERCISE and STRENGTHENING MY ABDOMINAL MUSCLES is my course of action after precautionary cardio stress test next week. I FEAR another attack (have slowly increased in number over the last few months), but I feel certain this is not cardio but as the man mentioned above, the result of physiological changes in posture, weight and generally getting older.

  • I have fibromyalgia which affects all my muscles, including bladder and now esophagus. I have had terrible gut and intestine pain too. Now my stomach is distended. The muscle relaxant, Flexeril, knocks me out but atleast it gets rid of spasm yet causes intense burning in my muscles/skin. Im in constant pain all over my body all the time; it seems there isn’t one muscle unaffected now.

  • when I’m having a spasm, I can’t actually swallow any water – nothing will go down. In fact, my mouth rapidly fllls with saliva, so I have to get rid of that

  • Going through terrible spasms that go from my chest and wrap around to my mid back with a lot of acid reflux. Dr. Gave me dicyclomine but it doesn’t seem to work. Any of you had any luck with anything else?

  • I am so glad I found this sight! It makes me feel like I am not crazy and not alone. The first time I had the spasm I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the hospital and they gave me Nitroglycerin which helped. They gave me no information just to follow up with a cardiologist. When it happened again several days later, I refused to leave the hospital until they told me what it was. Even though I now know it is esophageal spasms, I have been trying to find out what to do to prevent and/or relieve them when they do happen. I am a nurse and am so afraid that they will happen when I am at work. The last time it happened at least I knew it wasn’t my heart and didn’t go to the ER but they still hurt and I have a hight tolerance for pain. I will be trying some of these remedies posted in this site. Thanks! Please continue to post your trials, both successes and failures.

  • The first time I had an attack I thought I was having a heart attack. Woke up 5am with excruciating chest pain ended up in hospital but nothing wrong with my heart apparently. I have been having these for nearly 2 years now with no definite diagnosis!!!! The chest pain in really bad and the sweat actually pours from my head straight away. I cannot get comfortable and wither about on a cold floor and often need to loosen my clothing to stop me sweating. Endoscopy revealed nothing nor did a barium swallow. They have sent me to cardio but couldn’t get me on the tread mill because my blood pressure was too high. I have another appointment soon to try again. I don’t think food brings mine on as I could just be sat at home or work without having eaten for hours and I still have the attacks .the consultant is trying trazodone so I will let you know how I go.

  • re Roger Luther. Having read thru a zillion comments, finally his is the one that matches my symptoms. Mine start with room temp tiny sip of liquid…spasm starts, can’t swallow and have to continue letting saliva drip (or spit it out). Excruciating pain in the recessed area under larynx. Lasts for maybe 15 min. Hasn’t happened too often (thank the good Lord) but when it does I feel as if I’m going to die. Nothing helps. ( Altho once I used a homeopathic. remedy under the tongue (combo of Cuprum, Mag Phos, and Belladonna and it helped right away but it didn’t work as well the next time.) Change in body positions doesn’t seem to help relieve the pain. Hasn’t ever happened when or after eating. Endoscopy revealed nothing wrong.

  • This makes me so sad: I have a history of complex heart problems including SVT: I had five attacks suddenly within a month and the first one I thought I was dying: called an ambulance, lots of tests etc, a messed up EKG and days of pain only managed by narcotics :/
    Also big GI history too, now this is my diagnosis… after five years of a chronic pain condition this takes the cake for pain (comparable to stage 4 endometriosis which is also agonizing) and no idea why it’s suddenly become a huge issue … gah!

  • I am so glad that I found this site. I too have the nutcracker. Its the worst pain ever. Took several years for the Dr’s to figure it out. Drinking water helps, eating ice pops help, but they are temporary. My doctor started me on Nephedipine. It has helped tremendously!! It has been years since I had an attack, but recently started getting them again. I got one last night, ate 3 ice pops and 2 glasses of ice water. After 3 hours, the pain went away. Today, I still have a slight pain, just to let me know its there. I don’t know if my doctor has to increase my meds or what. I cannot sit when I have these attacks. I have to constantly be on my feet. Now the pain in also in my back. I know your pain. If anyone has any solutions, please let me know.

  • I have had esophageal spasms for many years. It has been several years since I had one but it has been severe, today! I have tried ginger chews, lemon in the water, plane cold water, and now I am drinking peppermint tea. I have no idea what else to try. I have been on a gluten-free diet for 17 years now and that has really helped my esophageal spasms and motility issues! I don’t think I have any contamination in my food. Which has been the reason for the past esophageal spasms. I am wondering if it is being caused by a new herb that I am taking for my RA, called Cat’s Claw. Does anybody have any experience with this herb?

  • I’ve been having these for a long while now, but never had a name for them. The first time it happened, fortunately I wasn’t on my own, something I was extremely grateful for. I thought I was going to die as I was choking to such a degree. If I try to drink anything it’s like it just sits on the top of whatever’s there and adds to the problem. I still get them, mostly when eating, and while they take a age to settle I know it will go in time. It’s still pretty frightening though. I’d just like to say thank you for all the comments, it’s certainly given me some ideas to try,and will discuss them with my GP.

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