Painful Swallowing, In Throat, Chest, Medical Term, ICD, Causes, Remedy & Treatment

Painful swallowing can be described as any pain or discomfort experienced while swallowing. This kind of pain may be felt high in the neck, lower behind the breastbone and in throat. In chest and other parts, the pain will often feel like a strong sensation of squeezing or burning.  This article provides you with an insight into some of the possible cause of the pain, treatment and some home remedies that will help you relieve the pain.

Painful swallowing medical term

The medical term of swallowing pain according to the international classification of Disease (ICD) is dysphagia. Although the condition is classified under sign and symptoms in ICD-10, the term is often used as a condition on its own right. Most people with this condition are often unaware of having the condition.

Pain when Swallowing
Pain when Swallowing

With dysphagia, it takes more time and effort to move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach. The condition is often associated with pain, making it hard or impossible to swallow. Occasional difficulties in swallowing can be overlooked, but when the symptom persist, it may indicate a serious medical condition that requires urgent medical attention.

Dysphagia is often confused with odynophagia. Odynophagia is a medical term for painful swallowing. In that case, dysphagia is defined as difficult swallowing. Odynophagia includes any pain associated with swallowing that’s found in the mouth, the throat, or the esophagus.

Painful swallowing or odynophagia can be as a result of different condition but most often, an infection in the mouth. The common cause of the pain will, therefore, include any kind of an infection in the mouth, the tonsils, the throat, epiglottis or esophagus. This would include infection such as respiratory infections, candidiasis, HIV, Epstein-Barr, herpes simplex virus infection, viral or bacterial infection inside mouth among others.

Painful swallowing ICD

As mentioned, painful swallowing is classified as a sign and symptom according to the ICD. ICD is the international classification of disease. It is the international “standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management, and clinical purposes”. The full official name of this organization is International Statistical Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems.

This organization is maintained by the world health organization.  WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.  The ICD is designed as a health care classification system. The organization provides a system of diagnostic codes for classifying disease. The classification includes nuanced classification of a wide variety of signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury and disease.

The ICD system is designed to map health conditions to corresponding genetic categories with specific variation. A category is assigned a designated code up to six characters long. With this classification, major categories are designed to include a set of similar diseases.

ICD guidelines code states that the code assigned to a specific condition should not be used as a principal diagnosis code when a related definitive diagnosis has been established. Dysphagia or painful swallowing code given by ICD is 787.20

Painful swallowing NHS

The national health services UK (NHS) describes dysphagia as the medical term for swallowing difficulties. According to, some people with this condition may find it difficult to swallow certain foods or liquids, while for other, they can’t swallow at all.

Common signs of dysphagia according to NHS will include the following:

  • Coughing and choking when eating or drinking
  • Bringing food back up, at times through the nose
  • A sensation that food is stuck in your throat or chest
  • Persistent drooling
  • Weight loss and repeated chest infection (over time)

If you have a swallowing disorder, it is possible for you to experience difficulty or pain when swallowing. For some people, the pain may cause some people to be unable to swallow at all. Other people, however, may experience discomfort or trouble when swallowing liquids, foods or saliva. With painful swallowing, it may be hard to eat, this makes it difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish your body.

Anybody can experience painful swallowing. Swallowing disorder is, however, common in the elderly and often happens because of other conditions. The condition will often include the following:

  • Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and other nervous system disorders
  • Cancer of the head, neck or the esophagus
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Complications with the esophagus or gastroesophageal reflux disease

Some people with this complication can be treated with medicines. Some people will, however, need surgery. When experiencing swallowing complication, you may find it helpful to change your diet or hold your head or neck in a certain way when eating.

Painful swallowing causes

The cause of painful swallowing (dysphagia) varies greatly from mild irritants to ulcers, swallowing disorders to cancerous tumors. To effectively treat and get rid of the pain, you have to start by identifying what the actual underlying cause of the pain is.

Here are some of the possible cause of painful swallowing:

Strep throat, a fever caused by streptococcal infection

Tonsillitis, this is the inflammation of the tonsils. the sign may include difficulties swallowing and tender lymph nodes on the side of the neck

Acid reflux a very common condition characterized by a burning pain (heartburn) around the lower chest area. It is caused by stomach acid flowing back up into the food pipe.

Esophagitis which Is the inflammation of the esophagus (the part of the alimentary canal that connects the throat to the stomach)

Oral thrush is also known as oral candidiasis is a yeast or fungal infection affecting the inside of mouth

A sore throat this is a condition marked by pain in the throat. The condition is caused by inflammation due to cold or a viral infection.

Esophageal cancer this is cancer arising from the esophagus. Common symptoms of this cancer will include difficulty in swallowing and weight loss.

Diphtheria an infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria. Symptoms may vary from mild to severe and often start 2-5 days after exposure. Symptoms will begin with a sore throat and fever.  A gray or white patch may then develop in the throat blocking air and food to cause painful swallowing.

Other causes may include temporal arteritis and esophageal spasms

Painful swallowing after endoscopy

One may also experience painful swallowing after endoscopy. Endoscopy is a nonsurgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract. The procedure uses an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it.

Your doctor may use this procedure to take a biopsy in the examination of a disease. Generally, the procedure is safe. The procedure does, however, have a few potential complication which may include:

  • Perforation or tear in the gut wall
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pancreatitis (a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed)

Painful swallowing after vomiting

Can vomiting or throwing up cause painful swallowing? The truth is that vomiting is a complex bodily reaction. Vomiting causes the contents of your stomach to leave the body. Vomiting can be a result of a response to brain signal or occur when your body detects something bad in the food you have consumed.

The more you vomit or throw up, the more inflammation and burning you fell. So yes, it is possible for you to experience painful swallowing after vomiting. Drinking a soothing solution such as tea or warm water may help relieve the pain. The best thing to do however is to identify the underlying cause of nausea and vomiting.

If you continue vomiting for long, you may end up with any of the following conditions:

  • Esophagitiscaused by prolonged inflammation in your throat. Common symptoms of this condition include painful swallowing, hoarseness, heartburn and sore throat
  • Barrett’s esophagus is the result of the continual inflammation from stomach acids. The condition is often caused by chronic heartburn. The continued heartburn may change the color and composition of the esophagus lining.

Very painful swallowing at night

Painful swallowing can be felt both at night and during the day. Depending on what the cause of the difficulties in swallowing is, some people can experience pain even by simply swallowing saliva. Very painful swallowing at night can be a sign of stomatodynia. This is a condition characterized by pain in the mouth.

Stomatodynia is a pain syndrome often described as a scalding sensation in the tongue, lips, palate or the entire mouth. The condition is common in women. Stomatodynia may be idiopathic or linked to various medical and dental conditions from nutritional deficiency and menopause to dry mouth and allergies.

Sore throat is the other possible cause of painful swallowing at night. Sore throat is discomfort, pain or scratchiness in the throat. Sore throat is a typical inflammation due to a cold or another virus. You could also develop sore throat when breathing through the mouth (causing dryness and irritation of the throat), by a common cold and strep throat infection.

Painful swallowing one side of throat

According to, pain in the throat can be severe and usually get worse when swallowing. Painful swallowing can affect one side of the throat or both sides. In a rare case, the pain in the throat may irradiate to the ear. This is often because nerves to the back of the throat are very close to those from the ear.

Painful swallowing one side of the throat will often occur due to:

  1. Inflammation of the tonsils, known as tonsillitis. The inflammation of the tonsils can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. Common symptoms of tonsillitis will include a sore throat, swollen tonsils, and difficulty swallowing and tender lymph nodes.
  2. Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes which occur due to an infection in the body. the lymph nodes together makes up the immune system and help protect the body against such infection (viral and bacterial infection)
  3. Enlarged lymphatic tissues

Painful swallowing in chest

The university of Maryland medical center list chest pain painful swallowing a signs and symptoms of dysphagia. According to the university medical center, dysphagia is described as difficulty swallowing or the feeling that food is “sticking” in chest or throat.

Though dysphagia may cause pain in the chest, the feeling is often actually in your esophagus.  The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Painful swallowing in the chest can be felt when swallowing solid food, liquids or in some cases both.

In children, the pain can be felt due to, physical malfunction, gastroesophageal reflux disease or open heart procedures performed during infancy. In adults, the chest pain can be caused by

  • benign or cancerous tumor,
  • conditions that may cause the esophagus to narrow
  • stroke
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD

Painful swallowing treatment

The treatment for painful swallowing will often depend on the underlying cause and type of dysphagia. In a healthcare facility, the type of dysphagia one is suffering from can usually be diagnosed after testing your swallowing ability and examining your esophagus. According to NHS, many cases of dysphagia can be improved with treatment, a cure is, however, not always possible. You need to know that most swallowing problems can be treated.

With painful swallowing, the treatment will depend on whether your swallowing problems is in the mouth, in the throat or in the esophagus. The treatment as mentioned will also depend on the underlying cause of the dysphagia. In some cases, treating the underlying cause is the best way to relive the swallowing problems.

The treatment for dysphagia can be managed by a group of specialists known as multidisciplinary team MDT. This team is made up of a speech and language therapist, a surgeon and a dietitian.

Painful swallowing treatment may include but not limited to the following:

  1. Speech and language therapy to learn new swallowing techniques. Various swallowing maneuvers can be used to change the swallowing physiology. As such, each swallowing maneuver is utilized for a very specific diagnosis and should only be used after discussing with your speech-language pathologist.
  2. The other treatment options one can adopt with painful swallowing is changing the consistency of food and liquids to make them safer to swallow. The international dysphagia diet standardization initiative (IDDSI 2012) by now has developed global standardized terminology and definition for texture modifies foods and thickened liquids for individuals of all ages with dysphagia, in all care settings and for all cultures.
  3. In cases of severe pain, while swallowing, alternative forms of feeding may be adopted. This would include such forms as feeding through the nose or stomach.
  4. Surgery is the other treatment option available for a severe case of painful swallowing. A surgical procedure to widen the narrowing of the esophagus by stretching it or inserting a plastic or metal tube can be used for people with dysphagia. This surgical procedure is known as a stent.
  5. Dietary changes is also a possible treatment option for this condition. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian for advice about changes to your diet. This helps ensure that you receive a healthy balanced diet.

Urgent medical attention is often required for those with the condition. When this is done, dysphagia can sometimes lead to further problems and complication. A common complication of the painful swallowing according to is coughing or choking when food goes down the wrong way and blocks your airway.

Painful swallowing remedy

Painful swallowing can be relieved by simple home care methods. Some of these methods may include eating slowly and chewing food well before attempting to swallow. You could also resolve to eat pure foods or liquids when solid foods are hard to swallow. The other thing you will need to do to relieve the pain is avoiding very cold or very hot food.

At home you could try the following remedies:

  1. Drinking plenty of water. Water not only keeps your body hydrated but also soothes and moistens your throat
  2. You could also try to gargle with saline water. To do that, mix a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water, gently mix the two and gargle the solution in the back of your throat and mouth.
  3. The other thing you can do is sip warm liquids such as warm water, or tea mixed with honey, peppermint or tea tree oil. These solutions may help relieve the swelling and the pain in the throat.
  4. Avoid foods and drink that are irritating to your throat

With painful swallowing, you need to seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms.

  • You are unable to swallow at all
  • Have something stuck in your throat
  • Can’t swallow at all
  • Blood in your stool or any abnormal color of stool
  • Lightheadedness
  • Unexplained weight loss or
  • Shortness of breath or difficulties breathing

Sources and references

  1. What causes pain on swallowing?
  2. Painful swallowing:
  3. ICD classification of painful or difficulty swallowing:
  4. Dysphagia (swallowing problems)
  5. 7 common reasons why it hurts to swallow:
  6. Difficulty swallowing, pain or discomfort, pain when swallowing and sore throat:
  7. Causes of panful swallowing:


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