Tight Throat and Constant Swallowing: Causes & Treatments

There’s no reason why a tight throat or frequent swallowing should have you up in arms, according to Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, MD, FACS. 

He explains, “There are two major reasons that cause patients to complain about constant swallowing and throat tightness.”

Dr. Josephson is a nasal and sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, and author of Sinus Relief Now. He continues: “Those two major reasons are post-nasal drip and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).” 

So though anxiety can cause frequent swallowing and a tight throat, keep open minded about sinus problems and allergies, which can cause the post-nasal drip.

“These two problems are often connected, and when one acts up the other gets worse,” says Dr. Josephson. Mucus is normally produced in the nose and sinuses. Normally, 1-2 liters of mucus is produced. It “traps dirt infection and pollution. The mucus drips into your throat and you swallow about 10-12 times per minute.”

Certain agents can alter the volume of mucus, its consistency and pH, such as pollution, infection, tobacco smoke, allergies and chemicals. 

“This causes inflammation to the throat, leading to tightness and swelling and the need to swallow more frequently, thus causing discomfort,” notes Dr. Josephson.

Post-nasal drip increase can ante up GERD. When GERD gets triggered in this unpleasant cycle, says Dr. Josephson, “the reflux can cause swelling in the throat, causing the patient to feel tight in the throat, and this causes the patient to swallow more frequently than normal, giving the patient the sensation of constant swallowing.”

A laryngospasm can result from the reflux: “a sudden closure of the voice box which can make the patient feel like they are choking,” says Dr. Josephson.  

“This may spark a panic attack where the patient feels like (s)he cannot breathe. This sudden closure is to protect the lungs, and although scary, will not cause the patient to suffocate.”

It’s a sensation of labored breathing, not actual difficulty, that results from frequent swallowing and tightness—this, despite the fact that the reflux has made it to the sinus cavities, instigating more post-nasal drip, making you swallow even more.

Anxiety, and of course GERD, can cause excessive swallowing and a tight throat. “An accurate diagnosis with targeted therapy needs to be instituted to resolve the underlying causes for this complex problem to be resolved,” says Dr. Josephson, in reference to GERD; get a thorough medical history and tests by an ear, nose and throat doctor.

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