What Does It Mean When You Can't Burp?

According to Healthline, burping is a perfectly normal phenomenon that serves as a means to release swallowed air through the mouth from the stomach. It can be a relief for anyone who enjoys drinking soda. Can you imagine chugging down a carbonated beverage and then not being able to release all of that air that you just swallowed? You may be surprised to learn that this is actually a reality for some people. Not everybody is physically able to burp.

If this is the case for you, then you may be wondering if something is wrong, especially when everyone around you is able to burp. To make it even more lonely, this condition was not described in scientific literature until 2019 (per OTO Open). You are not alone, though; there is a Reddit community called No-Burp with thousands of members.

Anyone with this condition knows that it can be a very uncomfortable experience, and you may be wondering how it happens.

If you can't burp, you may have retrograde cricopharyngeal dysfunction

When a person burps, their upper esophageal sphincter (cricopharyngeus muscle) relaxes to release air. If a person has retrograde cricopharyngeal dysfunction (R-CPD), the sphincter is unable to do this, leaving them unable to burp. Often, people with this condition experience embarrassing gurgling, discomfort in the chest and abdomen, or feel bubbles of air trapped in their neck and unable to move upwards. Excessive flatulence is also common. Many people with this condition are incorrectly diagnosed with acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome and given ineffective treatments (per Laryngopedia). 

Fortunately, a treatment is now available for people diagnosed with this condition. This treatment involves Botox injections that allow the upper esophageal sphincter to fully relax and open up, enabling a person to burp. For most patients, just one injection is all that is necessary to start seeing immediate improvement, while for others, subsequent injections may be needed after several months (per OTO Open).