It's not clear what causes esophageal spasms. However, they appear to be related to abnormal functioning of nerves that control the muscles you use when you swallow.

A healthy esophagus normally moves food into your stomach through a series of coordinated muscle contractions. Esophageal spasms make it difficult for the muscles in the walls of your lower esophagus to coordinate in order to move food to your stomach.

There are two types of esophageal spasms:

  • Occasional contractions (diffuse esophageal spasms). This type of spasm may be painful and is often accompanied by regurgitation of food or liquids.
  • Painfully strong contractions (nutcracker esophagus). Although painful, this type of spasm — also referred to as jackhammer esophagus — may not cause regurgitation of food or liquids.
Oct. 21, 2015