Are my throat spasms caused by acid reflux?

Lee T. Austin, MD
Esophageal reflux can cause throat spasms which can feel like an intense, chest filling pain, that some people may belive to be a heart attack. Spasms can occur when eating or drinking, or even when lying down after a meal. Usually they occur without warning. Spasms are uncontrolled contractions of the esophagus muscles that normally move food from the mouth down into the stomach.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, acid from the stomach that comes up into the esophagus, can cause the spasm. There are two types of spasms:
  1. Diffuse Esophageal Spasm -  where the esophageal muscles contract in an uncoordinated way, which can cause food to get "stuck" in the esophagus.
  2. Nutcracker Esophagus - where the muscles of the esophagus contract too hard when swallowing, which can be very painful.
Symptoms of esophageal spasm include chest pain, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing. Treatment includes taking medications to treat the reflux, including proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Nexium), H2 blockers (Zantac, Tagament), and antacids (Tums). Lifestyle changes are also recommended and include smoking cessation, reducing alcohol consumption, weight loss, eating smaller and more frequent meals, remaining in an upright position for 3 hours after eating, and wearing loose fitting clothing. Some medications can also reduce the actual spasms, including calcium channel blockers and nitrates. Tricyclic antidepressants can also reduce the pain caused by the spasms. Contact one of our doctors if you have questions!
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Throat spasms can be affected by a variety of factors, including acid reflux. In this video, Dr. Oz discusses what can cause throat spasms.

Continue Learning about GERD

7 Ways to Fight GERD
7 Ways to Fight GERD
Sometimes the signs of acid reflux are unmistakeable -- from searing heartburn to sour-tasting acid burbling up in your throat. Sometimes the signs ar...
Read More
How safe is surgery for acid reflux?
Despite the fact that antireflux surgery is well established and very safe, it is still a major oper...
More Answers
Is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) a serious condition?
Although gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is not considered a serious condition, its impact on...
More Answers
When Should I See a Doctor About Heartburn?
When Should I See a Doctor About Heartburn?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.