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
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 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
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 12:29
  • see my comment below
    – Shanimal
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 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
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


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.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.