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.
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.