Home Digestive system What causes pain in the chest when swallowing?

What causes pain in the chest when swallowing?

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Swallowing is the process we use to swallow the food we eat. In some circumstances, this natural act can turn into a painful situation. Dysphagia may be the answer to the question, “why does my chest hurt when I swallow.”

In this FastlyHealarticle, we address the reasons and consequences of chest pain when swallowing. Although, in general lines, dysphagia could be corrected with eating habits, it is essential to bear in mind that it may be a symptom of a severe cause. Hence, a precise medical diagnosis is important.


Several muscles and nerve endings converge in the swallowing process, allowing food to be placed where it belongs. The esophagus makes the most significant effort, which, in a round trip, exerts pressure to carry the food to the stomach. Likewise, gasses or expulsions are returned through the esophagus when digestive disorders occur.

When there is a pain in the chest when swallowing, this symptom is immediately associated with some problem with the esophagus. It may happen that both the muscles and the nerves are not doing the work that corresponds to it.

One of the most common reasons has to do with dysphagia. It is a condition that makes it difficult to swallow food, so the esophagus has to make a great effort to eat, which can cause chest pain, and even, depending on the case, swallowing becomes impossible.

Why does the chest hurt when swallowing – causes.

The swallowing process begins in the mouth by chewing food and forming the bolus. It continues in the pharynx, the first step to swallowing, and ends in the esophagus, responsible for pushing the bolus into the stomach.

The causes of dysphagia can vary according to its type: oropharyngeal dysphagia, when the disorder occurs between the mouth and the pharynx; and esophageal dysphagia, when the difficulty arises at the level of the esophagus. Generalized symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Difficulty or inability to swallow.
  • Chest pain when swallowing.
  • Constant burning or heartburn in the digestive tract.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constant regurgitation of food or waste.

Causes of esophageal dysphagia

Esophageal dysphagia manifests itself as the sensation that food is stuck in the throat. You may also feel chest pain or food bolus binding. Some of the causes associated with esophageal dysphagia are:

  • Muscle disorders. Unexpected muscle contractions, tears, and swelling.
  • Esophageal spasms are fast contractions that are very painful, and their symptoms include chest pain when swallowing. The tendency of esophageal spasms increases with ingesting very hot or icy 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 esophageal rhythm. The activity carried out by the esophagus is a wavy muscle movement. There will be three muscle contractions after each intake; there will be three muscle contractions to achieve a completely clean duct. The loss of rhythm is precisely when that ripple is broken, causing esophageal spasms and causing pain when swallowing that is felt behind the breastbone.
  • Narrow esophagus. The narrowing of the esophagus can occur as a consequence of gastroesophageal reflux. It can also be the product of chronic diseases, such as sclerosis, that cause stiffness of the esophagus. In either case, there is difficulty swallowing, as well as pain.
  • Inflammation of the esophagus Heartburn or reflux can cause inflammation of the esophagus when it is a chronic condition. The same occurs when there is the expulsion of many acid burps. The inflammation can cause contractions of the esophagus or pain when swallowing.
  • Wounds in the esophagus. It can injure the esophagus by eating sharp foods such as thorns. Also, when pills are destroyed, they stick to the duct. In these cases, the injury can affect the esophagus lining, causing a slight swelling that is uncomfortable when swallowing.

Causes of oropharyngeal dysphagia

In the case of oropharyngeal dysphagia, the reasons can be more complex, involving chronic diseases, tumors, and even cancer, beginning in the mouth. People with dysphagia may feel nauseous, cough when swallowing, and even cause food to pass into the nose. Some of the reasons that can cause this pathology are:

  • Damage to nerve endings. Damage to nerve endings can be due to cardiovascular accidents or inconsistencies in the nervous system, affecting the normal rhythm of swallowing.
  • Degenerative diseases. Some degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis can cause narrowing of the esophagus, leading to dysphagia.
  • Cancer. Similar cases can occur when a tumor or cancer of the esophagus or throat is diagnosed.

What to do about 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 situation.

If, on the contrary, the pain has occurred irregularly or occasionally, it can be kept under observation. It is essential to pay attention to the food eaten to rule out any allergy in these cases.

Another way to control this discomfort is to try to eat 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 contract, which can cause pain during swallowing.

Likewise, it is essential to take the time to chew your food very well. Swallowing vast pieces of food can cause a bolus too large for the esophagus to digest, which will undoubtedly cause chest pain when eating.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why does my chest hurt when I swallow, we recommend that you enter our Digestive System category .

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