Why My Chest Hurts When I Swallow
Swallowing is the process we use to swallow the food we eat. In some circumstances, this natural act can become a painful situation. Dysphagia may be the answer to the question “why my chest hurts when I swallow”.
In this article, we address the reasons and consequences for which the chest hurts when swallowing. Although in general, dysphagia could be corrected with eating habits, it is important to take into account that it may be a symptom of a severe cause, so a clear medical diagnosis is important.
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In the process of swallowing, a number of muscles and nerve endings converge allowing the location of the food where it corresponds. The greatest effort is made by the esophagus who, on a round trip, exerts pressure to bring food to the stomach. Also, through the esophagus, gases or expulsions are returned when digestive disorders occur.
When there is pain in the chest when swallowing, immediately, this symptom is associated with some inconvenience with the esophagus. It can happen that in it, both the muscles and the nerves are not performing the work that corresponds.
One of the most common reasons has to do with dysphagia. It is a condition that hinders the swallowing of food, so the esophagus has to make a great effort to swallow, being able to cause pain in the chest, and even, depending on the case, swallowing becomes impossible.
Why the chest hurts when swallowing – causes
The process of swallowing begins in the mouth when chewing the food and forming the food bolus. It continues in the pharynx, which is the first step to swallow, and ends in the esophagus, which has the responsibility of pushing the bolus to the stomach.
The causes of dysphagia can vary according to their type: oropharyngeal dysphagia, when the disorder occurs between the mouth and the pharynx; and esophageal dysphagia, when the difficulty is at the level of the esophagus. The generalized symptoms of dysphagia include:
- Difficulty or inability to swallow.
- Pain in the chest when swallowing.
- Burning or constant acidity in the digestive tract.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Constant regurgitation of food or waste.
Causes of esophageal dysphagia
Esophageal dysphagia manifests as the feeling that food remains stuck in the throat. You may also feel chest pain or clogging of the food bolus. Some of the causes associated with esophageal dysphagia are:
- Muscle disorders. Unexpected contractions of the muscles, tears and inflammation.
- Esophageal spasms. These are fast contractions that are very painful and include chest pain when swallowing. The tendency of esophageal spasms increases with the intake of very hot or very cold foods.
- Diseases associated with the walls of the ducts, such as esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux, infections caused by bacteria or viruses, and heartburn, among others. These diseases can affect any of the 3 phases of the swallowing process.
- Loss of the esophageal rhythm. The activity performed by the esophagus is a muscular wave movement. After each intake, there will be 3 muscle contractions to make the duct completely clean. The loss of rhythm is precisely when that ripple is broken, which causes esophageal spasms causing pain when swallowing that they feel behind the sternum.
- Narrow esophagus The narrowness of the esophagus can occur as a result of gastroesophageal reflux. It can also be the product of a chronic disease, as is the case of the sclerosis that causes the stiffness of the esophagus. In either case, difficulty swallowing occurs, as does pain.
- Inflammation of the esophagus Heartburn or reflux can cause inflammation of the esophagus when it comes to a chronic condition. It happens the same when there is expulsion of many acid belches. Inflammation can cause contractions of the esophagus or pain when swallowing.
- Wounds in the esophagus. It is possible to cause lesions in the esophagus by eating pungent foods such as spines. Also when they swallow pills and these are stuck to the canal. In those cases, the lesion can affect the walls of the esophagus, causing a slight inflammation that is annoying when swallowing.
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Causes of oropharyngeal dysphagia
In the case of oropharyngeal dysphagia, the reasons may be more complex, since they involve chronic diseases, tumors and even cancer, which begin in the mouth. People with this type of dysphagia may feel nauseated, cough when swallowing and even that food goes to the nose. Some of the reasons that can cause this pathology are:
- Damage of nerve endings. Damage to the nerve endings may be due to cardiovascular accidents or inconsistencies in the nervous system, affecting the normal rate of swallowing.
- Degenerative diseases. Some degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis can cause narrowing of the esophagus, which can lead to dysphagia.
- Cancer. Similar cases can occur when a tumor or cancer of the esophagus or throat is diagnosed.
What to do in the face of chest pain when swallowing
If the pain is recurrent or occurs with each meal, it is best to request a medical check-up. As we have seen, some of the reasons may be due to severe conditions. A timely diagnosis of any of them can improve the condition.
If, on the other hand, the pain has occurred irregularly or occasionally, it can be kept under observation. In these cases, it is important to pay attention to the food that is eaten to rule out any type of allergy.
Another way to control this discomfort is to try to make the meals in a calm and stress-free environment. Under some circumstances, muscle tension can affect the throat. After all, the esophagus is made up of muscles that when contracted can cause pain during swallowing.
Read also: Sore Throat When Swallowing
Also, it is important to take the time to chew the food very well. Swallowing very large pieces of food can cause a bolus too large for the esophagus to digest, which will undoubtedly cause chest pain when swallowing.
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