Sometimes, mysteries arise in the most banal of things. The human life and the human body are themselves mysteries and, even with the state-of-the-art medical technology available these days, it is still very difficult to find answers to certain medical questions.
Esophageal spasms are among them. When thinking of muscle spasms, most of the people would naturally associate them with large groups of muscles such as those on the legs, those on the arms or those on the back. It may be surprising, but there are many other types of muscles in the human body we are not even aware of.
For instance, the esophagus is the hollow tube one can find right in between the throat and the stomach. This tube has the role of pushing down the food into the stomach through contractions which are generated by the muscles surrounding it. Thus, every single bite of food is a type of “exercise” for the esophageal muscles.
Esophageal Spasms: Banal, Yet Mysterious
Esophageal spasms are, in most of the cases, not dangerous and they occur sporadically. Under certain circumstances though, they can become recurrent and very aggressive, which can consequently lead to developing an inability to eat properly.
When a spasm appears in the esophageal muscles, they contract involuntarily, making swallowing difficult and leading to regurgitation. In certain cases, such spasms can be very painful as well. However, most of the people do not experience severe esophageal muscles.
As banal as they may seem, these spasms are very much mysterious. Although research has been done in the area, specialists have not yet been able to point out what it is exactly that causes these spasms. One theory goes that they are caused by the wrongful signals the nerves in the esophageal muscles send them, which cause the muscles to contract involuntarily.
Also, it is worth noting that there are two types of esophageal spasms: diffuse and nutcracker. The diffuse esophageal spasms are those which occur uncontrollably and that are not regular. These ones are the types of spasms that will most probably cause regurgitation of food and liquid due to the fact that the esophagus is not able to push them down into the stomach.
Furthermore, nutcracker spasms may not cause regurgitation, but they will be painful instead. Unlike the diffuse ones, these ones are regular and they will not impede the food from going further into the stomach. However, the intensity of the muscular movement in their case is too high – which is precisely why pain can appear.
Even more than that, you should know that even if the causes that lead to the development of this condition are not properly known, there are still a series of things that are considered to be risk factors in this case. For instance, people who suffer from the gastroesophageal reflux disease, people who suffer from heartburn, anxious people and people who normally eat or drink very cold or very hot foods or liquids are more at risk to develop the condition.
The Main Types of Treatment for Esophageal Spasms
As mentioned before, the causes for this condition are not yet fully understood. However, that does not mean that there aren’t several types of treatment available. Here are the main ways in which esophageal spasms can be treated- but not necessarily cured:
Generally speaking, the doctor will be able to prescribe certain types of medication meant to relax the muscles (including the esophageal ones). This way, the occurrence of the spasms can be lowered a lot.
Furthermore, a medical professional will most likely analyze whether the patient suffers from other associated conditions as well and he/she will prescribe adequate treatment for them- such as drugs that can treat heartburn or drugs that can treat the gastroesophageal reflux disease. Some of these drugs can be bought over the counter as well, but it is still recommended that you speak to your doctor about it and that you don’t take them without his/her advice.
There are certain cases when surgery may have to be performed. Mainly, the surgery will be aimed at treating acid reflux, which is commonly encountered in the case of those who suffer from esophageal spasms, that does not respond to any kind of medication. Also, surgery may have to be performed to cut the muscle that is found at the bottom of the esophagus, and this can release the contractions a lot.
Lifestyle changes/home remedies
Aside from medication (and, in the worst case scenario, surgery), the doctor will also recommend you to change your lifestyle according to the various conditions that are associated with esophageal spasms and of which you may be suffering. With that being said, he/she will probably advise you to:
- Not eat spicy foods or foods that are high in acid
- Not eat before sleeping (and leave a few hours in between your last meal and the moment you go to sleep)
- Eat several small meals every day (instead of 1-3 large meals)
- Smoke or use any kind of smokeless tobacco, for that matter
- Lose weight (if you are overweight)
- Not wear any kind of clothing that may be too tight around your middle part
- Raise the head of your bed approximately 6 to 8 inches
- See which are the things that trigger your spasms and remove them from your life
- Not eat food that is too hot or too cold (and this goes the same way about drinks as well)
Esophageal spasms can change one’s life. Not being to swallow food and drinks due to the pain (or not being to swallow them at all because your esophagus is pushing them back) can have awful repercussions on your health. With a few adjustments brought to your life, with some medication and with properly informing yourself though, you can move past this and live a normal life even when suffering from this condition!