What is causing a clicking sound when I swallow?

what is causing clickingFor many people, chewing and swallowing is a simple process that does not produce any cause for concern. But when something is amiss and not performing as it should, we become worried.

Our oral cavity is made up of several structures involved in digesting food. Our jaw muscles, tongue, and esophagus all work in concert with each to get our food down to your stomach. This process not only requires the contraction of muscles, but also the management of bite force, air that we inhale while chewing, and the balance of various pressure systems found within the head.


However, experiencing a clicking sound when swallowing may be due to an underlying condition that should be brought to the attention of a medical professional

Symptoms of clicking sounds when swallowing

While the most obvious symptom is the production of a clicking sound, the following symptoms may also be present:

  • Feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dysphagia (pain when swallowing)
  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw soreness
  • Throat soreness
  • Mild chest pain

Possible causes of clicking sounds during swallowing

Eustachian tube function:

Also known as the auditory tube, this structure connects to part of the middle ear, which is filled with air and closed off from the atmosphere outside the body, and back to the nasopharynx (the connection between the nasal cavity above the soft palate of the mouth). Normally, the eustachian tube is collapsed but opens up both when swallowing and with positive pressure (as is the case from taking off or landing on a plane).

This change causes the air in the middle ear to expand and contract, which causes this structure to push into the back of the nose and mouth. A balance of varying pressures within the head needs to be maintained. However, they may consequently be producing a clicking sensation when you swallow.

Clicking hyoid:

A rare abnormal condition of the hyoid bone, which is a horseshoe-shaped boned found on the anterior portion of the neck. A clicking hyoid can be painful, as it is characterized by enlargement of the greater cornua of the hyoid bone, which can impinge on the cervical vertebrae. That may cause an abnormal clicking sound when swallowing.
Temporomandibular joint syndrome disorder (TMJ disorder):

This disorder is characterized by excruciating pain or tenderness of the jaw. We use our jaw muscles every day to chew our foods, to speak, and even simply just breathing through our mouths. All of these actions rest upon a joint called the temporomandibular joint. This sliding hinge can be the source of pain felt in the joint itself as well as the muscles that control jaw movement. The exact reasons for TMJ disorder development may be difficult to determine, but it can be the result of several factors including genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury.

Globus pharyngitis:

Also known as “lump in the throat,” this condition is characterized by the sensation of having phlegm or some sort of obstruction in the throat when none exists. A person is still able to swallow fine, but it can become quite irritating. Occasionally, those affected also experience mild chest pain and/or a clicking sensation when swallowing.

Acid reflux:

A condition caused by the incomplete closing of the lower esophageal sphincter causing stomach acid to escape up into the esophagus causing pain. If occurring for long enough, it may become a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can cause referred pain to the back, in the region between the shoulder blades. Untreated GERD has been associated with the development of cancer in the long term. Some patients may experience clicking when swallowing with GERD.

Treatment for clicking sounds during swallowing


Considering the fact that there are many possible causes for why you may be experiencing clicking when swallowing, each particular cause involves its own particular diagnostic testing with its own therapeutic treatment. For example, having GERD will require the utilization of antacid medication to help reduce the production of stomach acid or being diagnosed with Globus pharyngitis surgery may be required to help provide relief.

However, it is important to keep in mind that having a clicking sound when swallowing may be just a normal phenomenon that occurs when the body is working as it should. But if there is true concern over whether this may is the result of something more sinister, seeing your doctor about it may not be a bad idea.

Related: White spots on throat causes, symptoms, and natural treatments

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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