Records from 910 patients referred to our clinical esophageal manometry laboratory for evaluation of noncardiac chest pain between January 1983 and December 1985 were reviewed and compared with records from 251 patients referred for dysphagia. Evaluation included baseline esophageal manometry, acid perfusion test, and edrophonium provocation. In the chest-pain group, 655 patients (72%) had normal esophageal motility and 255 (28%) had abnormal motility. Nutcracker esophagus was present in 48% of abnormal tracings, suggesting that it is a manometric marker for noncardiac chest pain. Of the total chest-pain group, 243 patients (27%) had their pain reproduced during provocative testing ("definite" esophageal pain); 192 patients (21%) had baseline manometric abnormalities but no pain during provocative testing ("probable" esophageal chest pain). The highest percentage of positive provocative responses (34%) occurred in patients with nutcracker esophagus on baseline manometry. Manometric abnormalities were statistically commoner (p less than 0.001) in patients with dysphagia, occurring in 53%. Achalasia (36%) and nonspecific esophageal motility disorders (38%) were the commonest abnormalities in this group, with nutcracker esophagus being infrequent (10%).