World Voice Day: Dealing with Throat Tightness

In honor of World Voice Day, April 16th, we asked speech pathologist and singing rehabilitation specialist Joanna Cazden for her thoughts on a common problem: dealing with throat tightness.

Here are reasons she thinks you may be experiencing throat tightness and dryness –– and her suggestions on what to do.

1. Sometimes the sensation of your throat feeling dry means that your throat IS dry! The cells at the surface of your throat have air moving past them all day long –– as the result of normal breathing. If the air around you (climate or indoor environment) is dry, your throat feels it.

When you sing, your mouth stays open longer than normal, and you take bigger “gulps” of air when you inhale between phrases. So any dryness you might feel gets even more intense. Drinking plenty of water helps, but using a humidifier, facial “steamer,” or just breathing the steamy vapor from a cup of tea may be a faster solution.

The quickest test is to sing in the bathroom when it’s steamy from a shower or bath. See if your throat feels better. If this kind of dryness is a constant problem, talk to your doctor about possible nasal congestion, and look for “oral dryness” products near the mouthwash and toothpaste section at your local pharmacy.

2. If a pinching and tight feeling is stronger than the sense of dryness, you may be straining your voice by singing too high, too loud, and/or too long.

Listen to your body, because it’s giving you a signal to back off! You can’t force your way past this kind of limit. Instead, give your voice some rest.

To prevent straining, work with a good teacher to improve the posture of your neck and jaw, and to manage your breathing more effectively.

3. Sometimes, throat tightness or a dry, irritated sensation is an indirect signal that your neck muscles are working too hard or are out of balance. This may be helped with massage, acupuncture, or physical therapy.

4. Tightness, dryness, or soreness in your throat can be related to chronic sinus infections, allergies, or acid reflux. It can also be a side effect of medications you’re taking. These are things to discuss with a throat doctor (laryngologist) who understands singers’ needs and problems.

Try the simple things first: humidity, neck relaxation, and less forcing when you sing. If these don’t solve your problem, see a doctor.

Joanna Cazden, MFA, MS-CCC, is a speech pathologist and singing rehabilitation specialist in Los Angeles, and the author of Everyday Voice Care: The Lifestyle Guide (Hal Leonard Books).

Photo Credit: World Voice Day

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