Painful swallowing 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. Painful swallowing may be a symptom of a serious disorder.
Swallowing involves many nerves and muscles in the mouth, throat area, and food pipe (esophagus). Part of swallowing is voluntary. This 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:
Some tips that may help you to ease swallowing pain at home include:
If someone is choking, immediately perform the Heimlich maneuver.
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:
Your provider will examine you and ask about your medical history and symptoms, including:
The following tests may be done:
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.