It's not clear what causes esophageal spasms.

A healthy esophagus normally moves food into your stomach through a series of coordinated muscle contractions (peristalsis). Esophageal spasms disrupt this process by making it difficult for the muscles in the walls of your lower esophagus to coordinate in order to move food to your stomach.

Types of esophageal spasms

Esophageal spasms may occur in two forms:

  • Diffuse esophageal spasms are occasional contractions in the esophageal muscles. This type of spasm is often accompanied by regurgitation of food or liquids.
  • Nutcracker esophagus is the term for painfully strong contractions in the esophageal muscles. Nutcracker esophagus is less likely to cause regurgitation of food and liquids.
Oct. 19, 2012