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Why Does My Throat Feel Tight?


When your throat feels tight and dry, your first thought is probably to wonder if you’ve picked up a cold or virus. But if you don’t have noticeable cold or allergy symptoms, you may wonder why does my throat feel tight?

A tight-feeling throat could point to one of several conditions related to your gastrointestinal tract – so it may be time to call your gastroenterologist. You may not have heard of some of the following conditions, but they’re more common than you think.

They can be easy to treat, but first, you have to know what to look for.

Cricopharyngeal Spasm

A cricopharyngeal spasm is when the muscle located at the top of your esophagus squeezes too tightly. It makes swallowing very uncomfortable. Also called the upper esophageal sphincter (UES), its job is to open to allow food and liquid to pass into the esophagus and then close again.

People experiencing cricopharyngeal spasms may feel like they have something large stuck in their throat. They may also experience choking or a feeling that their throat is tightening. The exact cause of cricopharyngeal spasm is unknown, but it may be related to neurological issues, acid reflux, or inflammatory conditions.

Esophageal Stricture

That tightness in your throat that you may think is allergies could be caused by inflammation or swelling resulting in an esophageal stricture. The swelling makes the opening of the esophagus smaller, which you feel as tightness. Esophageal stricture can cause other symptoms, like:

  • Burping
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Hiccups
  • Hoarseness
  • Regurgitation
  • Tightness in the chest

It’s often caused by stomach acid backwashing into the esophagus, which happens in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn or GERD

When stomach acid creeps up into your esophagus, your throat can feel sore and tight. Occasional heartburn can cause symptoms like that, especially after a large meal. Long-term symptoms may indicate GERD. When heartburn or GERD is the cause, you may also have symptoms like:

  • A lingering bitter, salty, or sour taste in your mouth
  • Burning in your chest after eating, lying down, or bending over
  • Feeling that something is stuck in your throat

Sometimes, you can prevent symptoms by avoiding foods that trigger heartburn. Avoiding food at least three hours before bed, or elevating the head of your bed to help stomach acid stay in your stomach. Over-the-counter antacids may help, but if not, it’s best to call your doctor.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

Like GERD, LPR is a condition caused by stomach acid traveling up into your esophagus. The difference is that with LPR, acid travels all the way up to your throat or larynx (voice box). GERD and LPR can happen together.

Symptoms can include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling like you have a lump or mucous in your throat
  • Frequent need to clear your throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Irritated larynx

It can often be treated successfully with lifestyle changes, like diet changes or weight loss. Over-the-counter medications can help, but if not, it’s best to call your doctor.

When to Call a Gastroenterologist

When you have a sore, tight throat, you might be tempted to take allergy or cold medicine, but that may not be the proper treatment.

If you’re asking yourself questions like why does my throat feel tight when I lay down or why does my throat feel tight when I swallow, and the answer doesn’t point to a cold or allergies, you may be having a side effect of a gastrointestinal issue.

Call your doctor if the tightness in your throat doesn’t go away or comes with symptoms like:

  • A lump or mucous in your throat
  • Bad taste in your throat
  • Burping
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Hiccups
  • Hoarseness
  • Regurgitating food

That sore throat you thought was a cold may be an altogether different problem – one for a gastroenterologist.

If you are struggling with your throat feeling tight, don’t wait – schedule an appointment today.

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