We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Esophageal Dysmotility?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The function of the esophagus is to transport food from the mouth to the stomach. For food to be transported efficiently and correctly, the muscles of the esophagus must coordinate in a very structured fashion to transport food to the stomach while ensuring that the stomach contents do not escape. An esophageal dysmotility disorder is one in which this process has been disrupted. These types of disorders can prevent food from being delivered to the stomach or cause stomach contents to be regurgitated. These problems can lead to esophageal dysmotility symptoms such as chest pain, pain when swallowing or the feeling of a permanent lump in the throat.

Esophageal dysmotility disorders have a wide range of causes and effects. One disorder, called spastic esophageal motility disorder, is caused by an imbalance between nerve pathways that cause esophageal muscles to relax and contract. This imbalance leads to muscle spasms that cause difficulty and pain when swallowing, chest pain and acid reflux.

In the case of esophageal achalasia, the disorder is caused by the inability of the esophageal sphincter muscle to relax. This muscle normally relaxes and tightens in response to certain cues, so that food can pass into the stomach while preventing regurgitation of the contents of the stomach. In achalasia, the constant rigidity of the muscle causes difficulty swallowing food and drink, heartburn, coughing, chest pain and regurgitation of stomach contents, including stomach acid.

Another esophageal dysmotility disorder, called scleroderma, develops as the result of the build-up of scar tissue in the esophagus. Scleroderma is the result of an autoimmune disease in which cells of the immune system attack different cell types in the body, including esophageal cells. Over time, chronic inflammation and irritation lead to the formation of scar tissue. This scar tissue weakens the muscles of the esophagus, causing difficulty and pain when swallowing. As the disease progresses, it can cause chronic acid reflux and increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Dysmotility disorders of the esophagus are generally incurable. The main objective of treatment is therefore symptom management and relief. Several types of medication can be used for dysmotility treatment, including calcium channel blockers and botulinum toxin. Dietary modifications can help relieve symptoms, and some disorders can be improved with surgery.

The primary medications used to treat esophageal dysmotility disorders such as achalasia are calcium channel blockers. These medications are useful because they make swallowing easier by reducing the strength of muscular contractions, including the sphincter muscle of the esophagus. Another medication option is botulinum toxin, also known as Botox®. This medication prevents strong muscle contractions because it causes partial muscle paralysis. Finally, some antidepressant medications help reduce chronic pain and might be prescribed for people who experience chronic chest pain because of dysmotility disorders of the esophagus.

Some dysmotility disorders can be treated with surgery. In the case of achalasia, the most common procedure is a Heller’s myotomy, in which the sphincter muscle is cut so that it is no longer permanently contracted. This procedure also is performed to treat other types of esophagus dysmotility, including spastic esophageal motility disorder.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002848 — On Mar 03, 2020

Can taking a antipsychotic drugs cause this?

By anon951009 — On May 13, 2014

I have just been diagnosed with esophageal dysmotility. I am 72 years old and when I was about 12 years old I had radium treatments for sinus problems. A long rod was inserted in each nostril with the treatment of radium on the end of each rod. This was done at three different times. I believe this has always caused my problem of swallowing, especially large pills. I did not know that chest pain and coughing went along with this problem.

I also have these. Could the stupidity of a doctor years ago have caused my problems now? -- Eva

By anon347280 — On Sep 05, 2013

I have just been diagnosed with esophageal dysmotility. It was diagnosed following testing for my hiatal hernia. Half of my stomach is under my diaphragm. I will be seeing a surgeon tomorrow for the hernia, but have been told that prior to surgery, I will need to do more testing for the esophagus, called an esophagus manometry. I guess what I don't understand is why I would need to have more tests when I already have this diagnosis.

By anon342768 — On Jul 23, 2013

I just found out that this is what I have. It's been five years. My symptoms are feeling like I need to burp/vomit/regurgitate all the time. If my stomach is empty, I will vomit air. If full, the air will push food back up with it, unless I'm careful.

I kind of have to come up with a new career idea because they won't let me in the army. That was my only dream. There is nothing else I want.

By anon340839 — On Jul 06, 2013

I have just been diagnosed with dysmotility and nutrient malabsorption, a terrible unknown bowel issue and had my gallbladder removed. I was told it was because I used to be a smoker.

By anon327662 — On Mar 29, 2013

I had d-bypass in 06 and have had problems with esophageal dysmotility since. I am in e.r. room once every two months with severe chest pain. I've had every test done under the sun and still no relief. I feel like it controls my life. Is there some sort of diet and natural pills to help? I hate these anti-depressants!

By anon270649 — On May 23, 2012

I have had this condition for nearly five years now, my symptoms are severe chest pain, and constant coughing. I am on 15 tablets a day now, which does ease the coughing but not the pain. I sleep slightly elevated of a night which does help, but when I wake in the morning, I have to clear my chest of any saliva that has laid on it overnight. This is a lifelong condition that often flares up, but hey ho, what can I do but live with it?

By anon259644 — On Apr 07, 2012

I have just been diagnosed with esophageal dysmotility, and have been suffering for a long time; my bowels even quit moving. My doctor has put me on Reglan, taken a half hour before each meal, Gas X, and eating six or more times a day, very light, soft food and small meals. Anything that causes a flare, don't eat it.

More tests are to be done on me to check for autoimmune diseases. I hope this helps!

By anon253066 — On Mar 07, 2012

I have been having problems for years. Food gets stuck going down and I have a really bad ache in my chest.

By anon174831 — On May 11, 2011

how do they test for it?

By anon162752 — On Mar 24, 2011

I have suffered with esophageal dysmotility for almost two years. This condition causes constant misery, and has totally ruined my life. Has any other sufferer found a drug that helps relieve symptoms? The doctors don't seem to know much.

By anon136694 — On Dec 23, 2010

I have had Barrett's Esophagus with increasing complications for over 10 years. Has any medical connection been made to ionizing radiation and these conditions?

I served in the USAF and was exposed to nuclear fallout during spring/summer of 1958 at Eniwetok. i have a claim in with the VA but they state it is not a proven connection until it becomes cancerous.

By anon124161 — On Nov 04, 2010

I know how you feel. sometimes it helps to watch what you eat: no acid, no coffee, no sodas and no fat. i just found that i have that problem. i know how much pain you have because i have it.

By anon122719 — On Oct 29, 2010

I have been diagnosed with esophageal dysmotility. I cannot vomit and I am in excruciating pain. What shall i do? I cannot make myself sick no matter how sick I feel or how hard I try. thanks. --lenka

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.