St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Painful swallowing

    Swallowing - pain or burning; Odynophagia; Burning feeling when swallowing

    Swallowing pain is any pain while swallowing. You may feel ithigh in the neck or lower down behind the breastbone. It is most often a strong feeling of uncomfortable squeezing and burning. Swallowing pain may be a symptom of a serious disorder.

    See also: Swallowing difficulty


    Swallowing is a complex act that involves the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (the tube that moves food to the stomach). Many nerves and muscles control how these body parts work. Part of swallowing is voluntary, which means you are aware of controlling the action. However, much of swallowing is involuntary.

    Problems at any point -- from chewing food and moving it into the back of the mouth to moving the food into the stomach -- can result in painful swallowing.

    Chest pain, the feeling of food stuck in the throat, or heaviness or pressure in the neck or upper chest while eating are often the result of swallowing difficulties.


    Swallowing problems may be due to infections, such as:

    • Cytomegalovirus
    • Gum disease (gingivitis)
    • Herpes simplex virus
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Pharyngitis (sore throat)
    • Thrush

    Swallowing problems may be due to a problem with the esophagus, such as:

    • Achalasia
    • Esophageal spasms
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
    • Inflammation of the esophagus
    • Nutcracker esophagus
    • Ulcer in the espophagus, especially due to the antibiotic doxycycline

    Other causes of swallowing problems include:

    • Mouth or throat ulcers
    • Something stuck in the throat (for example, fish or chicken bones)
    • Tooth infection or abscess

    Home Care

    Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly.

    If someone is choking, immediately perform theHeimlich maneuver .

    You may have an easier time swallowing liquids or pureed foods than solids.

    Avoid very cold or very hot foods if you notice that they make your symptoms worse.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your doctor or nurse if you have painful swallowing and:

    • Blood in your stools or your stools appear black or tarry
    • Shortness of breath or lightheadedness
    • Weight loss

    Tell your doctor about any other symptoms that occur with the painful swallowing, including:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Chills
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Heartburn
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Sour taste in the mouth
    • Weight loss
    • Wheezing

    What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    The doctoror nurse will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

    • Do you have pain when swallowing solids, liquids, or both?
    • Is the pain constant or does it come and go?
    • Is the pain getting worse?
    • Do you have difficulty swallowing?
    • Do you have a sore throat?
    • Does it feel like there is a lump in your throat?
    • Have you inhaled or swallowed any irritating substances?
    • What other symptoms do you have?
    • What other health problems do you have?
    • What medications do you take?

    The following tests may be done:

    • Barium swallow and upper GI series
    • Chest x-ray
    • Esophageal pH monitoring (measures acid in the esophagus)
    • Esophageal manometry (measures pressure in the esophagus)
    • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
    • HIV testing
    • Neck x-ray
    • Throat culture


    Falk GW, Katzka DA. Diseases of the esophagus.In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine. 24th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 140.

    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. 9th ed.Philadelphia,Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 42.


    • Throat anatomy


      • Throat anatomy


      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Painful swallowing

            Review Date: 11/9/2011

            Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs

            Brain & Spine
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile