Swallowing pain is any pain or discomfort while swallowing. You may feel it high in the neck or lower down behind the breastbone. Most often, the pain feels like a strong sensation of squeezing or burning. Swallowing pain may be a symptom of a serious disorder.
Swallowing - pain or burning; Odynophagia; Burning feeling when swallowing
Swallowing involves many nerves and muscles in the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (the tube that moves food to the stomach). Part of swallowing is voluntary, which means you are aware of controlling the action. However, much of swallowing is involuntary.
Problems at any point in the swallowing process (including chewing, moving food to the back of the mouth, or moving it to the stomach) can result in painful swallowing.
Swallowing problems can cause symptoms such as:
Swallowing problems may be due to infections, such as:
Swallowing problems may be due to a problem with the esophagus, such as:
Other causes of swallowing problems include:
To ease swallowing pain:
If someone is choking, immediately perform the Heimlich maneuver.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have painful swallowing and:
Tell your provider about any other symptoms that occur with the painful swallowing, including:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The provider will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
The following tests may be done:
Falk GW, Katzka DA. Diseases of the esophagus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 138.
Kahrilas PJ, Pandolfino JE. Esophageal neuromuscular function and motility disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 43.
Review Date: 8/14/2015
Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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