Nutcracker esophagus is characterized by painful, strong spasms in the esophagus, according to Mayo Clinic. These contractions do not necessarily cause food or liquid to be regurgitated. Due to the strength and severity of the contractions, Nutcracker esophagus is also called jackhammer esophagus.
Though nutcracker esophagus rarely occurs and its cause is unknown, certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing these spasms, explains Mayo Clinic. Risk factors include depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, the consumption of very hot or cold fluids and the consumption of red wine. Those between ages 60 and 80 are most likely to have esophageal spasms. There may be a correlation between esophageal spasms and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).