Little is known about the effect of achalasia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) on compliance of the esophageal body and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Twenty-two patients with achalasia, 14 with GERD, and 14 asymptomatic volunteers were assessed. Recording apparatus consisted of a specially developed PVC bag tied to a compliance catheter, a barostat, and a polygraph. Intrabag pressures were increased incrementally while the bag volume was recorded. In each subject, pressure–volume graphs were constructed for both the esophageal body and LES and the compliance calculated. In achalasia, compliance of the esophageal body was significantly higher (P < 0.01) than in controls, whereas LES compliance was similar. Patients with GERD had a highly compliant LES in comparison to both controls and to patients with achalasia (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively); however there was no difference in their esophageal body compliance. In conclusion, foregut motility disorders can cause changes in organ compliance that are detectable using a barostat and a suitably designed compliance bag. Further measurement of compliance may provide clues to the pathogenesis of these disorders.