Your voice is a magical muscle that reflects your viewpoints and feelings and having solid vocal technique is paramount to your vocal health. If your line of work calls for you to speak for hours on end, pay attention to how it feels and sounds as you go on throughout the day. The overuse—or misuse—of your voice may leave it feeling achy, swollen, or tender, which could be symptoms of tense vocal chords.
Don’t know how to care for your voice? Check out my five tips to help alleviate vocal stress and ensure you always have the power and strength to speak up.
Being well hydrated helps your muscles remain healthy and flexible. Generally, hydration helps with the body’s recovery process. Keeping your vocal cords lubricated will help them vibrate efficiently and reduce inflammation or irritation. Try to drink six to eight glasses of room temperature water a day—bottoms up! Now, if you really want to go the extra mile, steam your voice with a personal steamer. This will hydrate your vocal folds and minimize any swelling.
2. SHUT UP!
Do your best to keep silent–not quiet–COMPLETELY SILENT! Whispering actually puts more strain on your vocal folds. Let your muscle recover by not using it at all. Instead, type or write out your messages to friends to communicate. If you must speak, speak normally, and calmly and don’t try to “test it.” Testing your voice generally creates a stressful mindset, which may cause you to tense your voice unknowingly.
Allowing your body to recover and rest will help shorten the recovery time. Not enough rest will result in edema, or swelling of the tissues. To preserve your voice, you must make rest a priority. You will also not be talking while you sleep (remember step 2?), so all the better.
4. BE SMART ABOUT MEDICATION
Over-the-counter drugs like Advil are dehydrating which can give you a false sense of your recovery and can increase the risk of vocal hemorrhage if you are using your voice improperly. If you have time off from using your voice, it is fine to take Advil to decrease the inflammation. However, if the strain stems from misuse, I would advise against it while you use your voice.
5. BE AWARE OF SABOTAGERS!
When the voice is overcoming temporary ailment, it’s best to minimize these elements:
– upper body (trap and delt especially) post workout soreness – the tension is super local and the voice can feel tight when those muscles are sore.
– excessive cardio (panting for long periods of time)
– smoking…anything that passes by your throat
– AC / HEAT / fan blowing on your face
– talking over noise (duh)
– lack of sleep
– acid reflux (ouch)
– things that make you burp a lot (stomach acid just washin’ by your cords in baby doses)
– toxic chemicals (like in normal house cleaning products or nail polish)
– you’re getting sick and the virus is chillin’ on your larynx
Honestly, the best way to nip vocal problems in the bud, is to see a speech coach and have the coach help you develop a strong technical base. Remember, your voice is a muscle. Take care of it like you would any other muscle in your body. While your muscles can repair themselves, don’t wait too long if you are experiencing ongoing issues before you seek professional help.