Vocal Strain – My Voice is feeling tired and strained
Recently I had a question from one reader about Vocal Fatigue, Vocal Strain and what to do when the voice is feeling tired. Vocal fatigue can result from many causes, but when the vocal folds appear normal, fatigue is most often due to muscle tension dysphonia (MTD). MTD is the improper use of laryngeal and extrinsic muscles of the larynx and neck.
I like to think of the body as a whole, so often when our voice feels tired, it is likely that our whole body is tired. Here are my tips for vocal fatigue.
#1 Warm up
Singers and Speakers are athletes of the small muscles of the Voice. Warming up your body and daily vocalization will not only improve your singing technique but also help you overcome a tired voice. Start with a body stretch, followed by a mouth stretch (just open your mouth a couple of time and move your jaw to the left and right) and then start to vocalize. When your voice is feeling tired, be extra cautious to avoid vocal strain (in your voice and your body). You should vocalize starting with low volume and then add more of that ‚buzzing’ feeling in your voice as you go along.
#2: Keep the weight out of your voice
A tired voice often results from too much weight on the voice. This happens when too much mass of the vocal folds is vibrating without enough air flow through the glottis. Especially when we speak for a long time it can create the need to overpower or even shout. This additional pressure invites extrinsic muscles of the larynx and neck and creates a vicious cycle resulting in overpressure. To break out of that, you will need to work with the pitch of your voice. You may need to speak a little higher than you are used to speaking. Raise the pitch of your voice a little until you feel that it “takes the pressure” off your voice; it will feel just a little easier to talk. And put some energy into your voice by using more airflow, not more pressure!
#3: Give your Voice a Stretch
The Straw Exercise – I absolutely love this exercise! It stretches the voice in a gentle way and helps to find the right amount of air pressure. See a demonstration by Dr. Ingo Tietze from the National Center for Voice and Speech.
#4: Stay hydrated
I cannot stress enough the importance of drinking plenty of water. Half a gallon should be the absolute minimum (8 x 8-ounce glasses) but I would even recommend one gallon per day. Apart from keeping the mucosal tissue on the vocal folds moist, water will energize you, make your skin look good, flush out toxins and so many other health benefits that it’s well worth it!
Personally I like to put a couple of drops of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in my water. I prefer the taste and the health benefits such as regulating blood sugar, detoxification of the liver etc. are an additional bonus 🙂
We all know it and even though this is a singing blog, a healthy voice does not come from an unhealthy lifestyle. A good night sleep can do magic to the voice and overall well being. It is the body’s time to rejuvenate, heal and reproduce damaged cells in the body. So,
give yourself enough rest!
#6: Avoid eating late and heavy
Eating late causes acid reflux and inflammation in the throat. The greatest offenders for upsetting the acid balance are:
- Carbonated drinks
- Food with high fat content
- High-acidic fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products (causes excessive mucus)
- Spicy foods (increases acid)
#7: Avoid clearing your throat excessively
We all know that feeling when additional mucus or phlegm is stuck in our throat, preventing our vocal folds from closing completely and creating the need to clear our throat. Throat clearing results from something affecting the throat or airways. And while sometimes the excess mucus can be removed by clearing the throat, our throat and vocal cords take repeated abuse with constant clearing. Some experts say habitual throat clearing is a reflex action which people can have when they are under stress. Instead of clearing your throat, try this:
- Drink more water
- Clear the mucus by coughing it out
- Exhale to open the vocal folds
- Gargle with warm water and salt
If you experience vocal fatigue over a longer period of time get yourself checked by a qualified laryngologist and Speech Pathologist.
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