Sometimes when I'm chugging water, I accidentally swallow a big gulp of air.

It's extremely painful.

As I understand it, water is less compressible than air and people inadvertently swallow air all the time while smoking, chewing gum, drinking, etc.

How is this any different?

  • 2
    I find this a strangely compelling question. – Carey Gregory Feb 25 '16 at 21:35
  • Where exactly do you feel the pain - in the throat, behind the sternum, in the stomach...and is it only at one point at the time? And just about 1 second, not like 4-5 seconds long? – Jan Jan 16 '17 at 12:29
  • see my comment below – Shanimal Jan 22 '17 at 4:52
  • 1
    This interests me because I have the same issue. I was searching for a possible answer when I came across your post. It is extremely painful and takes up to probably 20 seconds for the bubble to pass, sometimes to the point that I have to spit out the liquid that I was trying to drink. – user11802 Oct 27 '17 at 18:42

Occasional severe pain in the throat and chest after swallowing that radiates into the arms and feels like a heart attack (as mentioned in the question and one comment) fits the description of esophageal spasm (WebMD).

The pain may last only for few seconds or minutes to hours (OESO Knowledge).

The causes and risk factors are not well understood; they can include acid reflux, unusal anatomy, problems with intrinsic esophageal innervation, etc. (Emedicine). The pain can be triggered by hot or cold beverages or stress, for example.

One possible explanation: Swallowing air results in a different onset of the esophageal peristaltic wave than usually. In combination with an underlying muscle/nerve abnormality, this can trigger a muscle spasm.

Diagnostic procedures include an X-ray with barrium swallow, esophageal manometry, etc.

Various endoscopic or surgical procedures can help...

Related terms: diffuse esophageal spasm, nutcracker or jackhammer esophageus, odynophagia.

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