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What Is a Cricopharyngeal Spasm?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2014
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A cricopharyngeal spasm is a spasm that occurs in the cricopharyngeal muscle. It is distinguishable when a person has a chronic feeling of having a lump in the throat. Many patients report that saliva is hard to swallow but food tends to go down easily.

There are two separate valves in the esophagus. Both of these valves relax to allow food and fluids through. They then contract after swallowing to prevent stomach contents from coming back up. When the contraction part of swallowing malfunctions, the cricopharyngeal spasm occurs.

Many people worry that a lump in the throat sensation is the results of a real lump in the throat, such as one that occurs as a result of a growing tumor. Most commonly, cricopharyngeal spasm causes are related to stress. The occurrence of a spasm often becomes aggravated or worse with increases in stress levels.

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

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Cricopharyngeal spasm treatment will vary depending on each patient. Doctors must consider individual factors. The frequency and duration of spasms, stress levels, medical history, and age are major factors considered when a treatment plan is created.

Prescription muscle relaxants are commonly recommended for bothersome cases. The muscle relaxants help to relax the constricted muscles that are causing the cricopharyngeal spasm. A muscle relaxant is generally 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 occurrence of spasms. Exposure to stress causes spasms to become more intense and frequent. Keeping track of trigger points can help a patient have fewer occurrences of spasms.

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

This condition generally does not continue on a long-term basis. Some cases are chronic, often due to muscle disorders or damage. In these instances, surgical repair or reconstruction may be recommended by a doctor.

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Discuss this Article

anon332963
Post 4

I have had enormous relief from 0.5mg of Xanax which is a benzo. I thought I was losing my mind with this problem. It was so bothersome, and now I can only feel a teeny little sensation when swallowing. The benzo not only relaxes the muscle, but also helps with the stress which is what caused it in in the first place. I just try not to use the benzos with any regularity to prevent a dependence forming.

Saraq90
Post 3

You could go to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor), but because a lump in your throat or the feeling of a lump in your throat might could be multiple things, I would personally go to my general medicine doctor and then let them refer me as they see fit.

If it does end up being a cricopharyngeal spasm lump, I hope you feel better. I am sure that lump can be a scary to plain annoying sensation!

jlong
Post 2

My suggestion is to talk with your primary physician about your symptoms. He or she may be able to diagnose and treat the lump sensation you are experiencing. If not, you can get a referral to a specialist which may be an Otolaryngologist (a doctor that specializes in the ear, nose, and throat).

amysamp
Post 1

I have felt the "lump in my throat feeling" but I thought it had something to do with the vitamin I took every morning.

Is there a special doctor I should go see about having a throat lump or at least the feeling of a throat lump?

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