Esophageal spasm, cramp: pain sternum, shoulder, arms, throat

Cramps above your stomach in the esophagus can lead to very painful stitches. Because the pain occurs in the sternum, it resembles a heart attack, but it is not. The pain spreads to the shoulders and arms, in addition to which the throat is also negatively affected. Eating is also problematic and it may be necessary to puree the meal beforehand. What is esophageal spasm and how can it wake you up choking?

Esophageal spasm

  • Food intake
  • Influence of cramping
  • Corkscrew esophagus
  • Waking up feeling choking
  • Certainty about heart attack
  • Degree of occurrence of esophageal spasm
  • Stress and acids
  • Chew and grind well
  • Avoid stress factors and tension

Food intake

As soon as we eat, we take food through the mouth and after chewing it is swallowed through the throat. It ends up in the esophagus, where the esophagus transports the meal down. It makes a downward motion, ensuring that no food blockage is caused. Normally, the food is transported to the stomach without any problems, so that it is further digested by stomach acids. The esophagus consists of muscle tissues, which produce the downward movement, and connective tissue combined with mucous membranes.

Influence of cramping

If there is a spasm, the normal downward movement is disturbed. It can be compared to a malfunctioning diaphragm, which causes hiccups. In this case, the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus will cramp, preventing food from moving forward or causing stomach contents to be sucked up. Both cramps and stomach acids can have painful consequences. In most cases, the worst pain is caused by the cramp, which acts as a corkscrew. Because surrounding tissue is also attracted, pain occurs. Usually there will be a stabbing pain at the level of the sternum, with the pain radiating to the shoulders and arms. The throat is also affected partly by acid reflux and partly by stretching.

Corkscrew esophagus

In this case, the muscle cramp leads to a twisting movement, which is like wringing out a towel. This is comparable to a corkscrew, where the passage is, as it were, pressed closed. As a result, nutrition can be passed on poorly or not at all. So in the most extreme case (persistent corkscrew) one can only be fed in small bites, whereby the meal should be taken as porridge.

Waking up feeling choking

A striking phenomenon that can accompany an esophageal spasm is that you wake up with a choking feeling. This is caused by the radiation of the cramp, which also causes breathing to react in a spasmodic manner. The esophagus passes between and in front of the lungs and therefore has a direct influence on them. An attack often lasts for a while, after which it weakens and disappears on its own. Because it can wake you up, it can give you an anxious, overpowering and oppressive feeling.

Certainty about heart attack

With a heart attack, one also has severe chest pain, with pain also radiating to other parts of the body. The most characteristic feature is that it radiates to the left upper arm, with other parts also starting to hurt. If it occurs for the first time, you must be sure about this by ruling out a heart attack. If in doubt, contact your GP, emergency service or call 112.

Degree of occurrence of esophageal spasm

Consciously or unconsciously, many people experience this at some point. However, in most cases it is not characterized as serious. The cramps remain limited and there is more likely to be belching with some cramps. During a severe attack, the cramp is so severe that the twisting starts and food is hardly or practically not passed on. If you eat many large pieces, they will of course get stuck in the esophagus, causing a blockage. In addition to pain, this can be an additional cause for nausea and vomiting. It occurs increasingly as one gets older, but also as one is under more stress.

Stress and acids

Cramps in the body are almost always caused by increasing tension and the presence of acids. Think of lactic and uric acid. It is responsible for the formation of inflammations, such as gout, rheumatism and causes cramps in muscles and tissues. It can occur anywhere, including the esophagus. Although no medical reason for the condition has been identified, it is reasonably related to the acid levels in the body. Acids mainly occur after the age of forty, because sodium bicarbonate levels decrease and in addition, acids increase in quantity during stress with tension. In other words, people with a full agenda in combination with fast eating suffer from it, and they can suffer from it more often as they get older.

Chew and grind well

If you regularly suffer from a spasm attack, the passage to the stomach is very small. The food should therefore be chewed well and, if desired, first pureed. The body needs to be nourished normally and this can be done with a severe spasm with very thin nutrition. Gradually, the food can then pass through the corkscrew, so that it can be further digested in the stomach.

Avoid stress factors and tension

The world is hurried and busy and work leads us through a stressed existence. These are circumstances that fuel the condition and make the person extra sensitive. It is always recommended to maintain sufficient relaxation within a day. In addition, stressful circumstances should be avoided. Work pressure and fear of being fired should be avoided as much as possible. Rather, it is important to work on self-confidence, which can increase body satisfaction. Tryptophan supplements can also help with this, because it promotes the neurotransmitter serotonin (influences physical mood). Furthermore, the influence of cramps should be reduced by removing acids, for example by applying various forms of body cleansing. If you have severe pain, muscle relaxation medication will be prescribed and the stenosis can be stretched using an endoscope with a balloon.

If you have an attack, wait until it is over. Afterwards you can start eating again, but always in thin mixtures. Puree the food and add water to make it easier for it to enter the stomach.

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