man holding his stomach in discomfort
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 11, 2024 ·  4 min read

Rare and Painful Condition Where You Can’t Burp is Leaving People in Pain

Burping is a natural bodily function that provides relief from discomfort caused by excess gas in the stomach. Most people take it for granted, not realizing how important it is until they encounter a rare and painful condition known as retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction (R-CPD). This disorder is characterized by the inability of a specific muscle in the throat to relax, hindering the outward passage of gas – in other words, it prevents people from being able to burp.

Retrograde Cricopharyngeal Dysfunction: When You Can’t Burp

Depending on what culture you’re from, burping can be a polite gesture or one that is rather rude. It is also normal for a human to burp after eating or after drinking something carbonated. However, imagine that you can’t burp when you need to. Even worse, imagine despite that pain, you felt too ashamed to speak to your doctor about it. This is an unfortunate reality for some, and it is leaving them in quite a lot of pain. (1, 2)

  • Aging: As we age, our muscles lose some elasticity and strength. This can cause them to become less efficient at performing their functions, including relaxing when needed.
  • Injury: Any trauma or injury that affects the throat area can lead to R-CPD. For example, people who have had surgery on their esophagus may develop this condition as a result.
  • Infection: Some infections can cause inflammation in the throat muscles, interfering with their ability to relax properly.

Current Research

To shed light on the impact of retrograde cricopharyngeal dysfunction on quality of life, a team of researchers from Texas Tech University conducted a study involving 199 affected adults. The results of this groundbreaking research revealed the profound physical and psychological effects of R-CPD on individuals, highlighting the urgent need for understanding and treatment.

The study focused on evaluating the daily struggles faced by those living with R-CPD. One of the most significant findings was the intense physical discomfort experienced by these individuals. The inability to burp easily results in the accumulation of gas in the stomach, leading to bloating, distension, and excruciating pain. Imagine the constant pressure and discomfort caused by trapped gas, with no relief in sight. It’s a distressing and debilitating situation that can have a severe impact on the overall well-being of these patients. Most of the participants reported abdominal bloating, socially awkward gurgling noises, excessive flatulence, and difficulty vomiting.

Read: Stop holding your farts in – here are 5 health benefits of passing gas

Moreover, the study also revealed the psychological toll that R-CPD takes on affected individuals. Social situations, such as meals with friends or family gatherings, become a source of anxiety and embarrassment. The fear of experiencing painful symptoms and the lack of control over bodily functions can lead to isolation and a decline in overall mental health. Participants also reported embarrassment, anxiety/depression, negative impacts on relationships, and work disruption due to R-CPD. The researchers discovered that many participants felt self-conscious, which often resulted in avoidance of social activities that they once enjoyed. The emotional distress caused by constant discomfort and the inability to participate fully in daily life is a burden that those with R-CPD carry every day.

Lack of Awareness Makes Getting Help Tough

The lack of awareness and understanding surrounding R-CPD makes it challenging for individuals to seek appropriate medical help and receive the proper diagnosis. Many people endure these symptoms for years before finally finding a medical professional who can offer an explanation. This delayed diagnosis further amplifies the frustration and distress experienced by those living with R-CPD.

While this condition may be rare, the impact it has on the lives of affected individuals is significant. The Texas Tech University study sheds light on the physical and emotional burden endured by those with R-CPD, emphasizing the urgency in further research and treatment options. Increased awareness among medical professionals and the general public is crucial in order to ensure that individuals suffering from this condition can find the support and relief they desperately need.

The Bottom Line

Retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction (R-CPD) is a rare and painful condition that deprives individuals of the ability to burp. This disorder hampers both physical and mental well-being, causing intense discomfort and emotional distress. The study conducted by Texas Tech University highlights the urgent need for understanding and treatment options for those affected by R-CPD. By raising awareness, we can hope to improve the lives of individuals suffering from this condition and provide them with the support they need to live a more fulfilling life.

Keep Reading: The Pill That Can Track Your Gas (Yes, It’s a Real Thing)


  1. Retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction: How does the inability to burp affect daily life?.” Pubmed. Jason N Chen, et al. December 20, 2023.
  2. Shame over basic bodily function is leaving people in pain.” Metro. Isobel Williams. December 20, 2023