What is a cricopharyngeal spasm?

A cricopharyngeal spasm is a spasm that occurs in the cricopharyngeus muscle. It is distinguishable when a person has a chronic sensation of having a lump in the throat. Many patients report that saliva is difficult to swallow, but food tends to go down easily.

There are two separate valves in the esophagus. Both valves relax to allow the passage of food and liquids. They then contract after swallowing to prevent stomach contents from rising back up. When the contraction starts from the swallowing malfunction, cricopharyngeal spasm occurs.

Many people worry that a lump in the throat sensation is the result of an actual lump in the throat, such as one that occurs as a result of a growing tumor. Most often, the causes of cricopharyngeal spasm are related to stress. The occurrence of a spasm is often aggravated or made worse by increasing stress levels.

The most pronounced and main cricopharyngeal spasm symptom that can occur is the sensation of lumps. Most patients note that the sensation is worse near the end of the day. Eating stops the spasm in many cases, even if it only stops for a short time. A patient may not experience a spasm every day, or the spasm may continue for days at a time.

The treatment of cricopharyngeal spasm will vary according to each patient. Physicians must consider individual factors. The frequency and duration of spasms, stress levels, medical history, and age are all important factors considered when creating a treatment plan.

Prescription muscle relaxants are commonly recommended for bothersome cases. Muscle relaxants help relax the tight muscles that cause cricopharyngeal spasm. A muscle relaxant is usually taken when the spasm begins. Most prescription muscle relaxants are benzodiazepines, but because they are highly addictive, doctors may choose a different class.

Identifying and reducing stress also works to combat the onset of spasms. Exposure to stress causes the spasms to become more intense and frequent. Keeping track of trigger points can help a patient have fewer spasms.

Heat can be another way to treat a cricopharyngeal spasm. Warm compresses or a heating pad on the throat can relieve discomfort and relax the muscles. Some patients may also experience relief by drinking warm fluids.

This condition usually does not continue long-term. Some cases are chronic, often due to muscle disorders or damage. In these cases, a doctor may recommend surgical repair or reconstruction.

Go up