As a vocologist, I see people in my office every day who have voice problems. They have many different ideas as to what factors have contributed to their voice issues. So, what’s one of the biggest obstacles to having a healthy voice, whether speaking or singing? Reflux? Surely a big problem but probably not the biggest. Allergies? Lack of sleep? No time to do vocal warm-ups? Not enough hydration? All of these are surely enemies of the voice. But there’s one more obstacle that transcends all aspects of our lives and worms its insidious way into many things we do. That obstacle: STRESS!
Stress is pretty much a fact of 21st-century life. Job, family, relationships, finances, health – all can be sources of stress. And stress can manifest itself as muscle tension; specifically for our clients, vocal muscle tension, hoarseness, pain, or even loss of voice altogether. I’ve had clients whose muscle tension dysphonia was so severe, they were forced to take a leave of absence from their jobs. And stress was often reported as a key factor.
Now we’ve talked in previous videos and blogs about ways to deal with stress, including abdominal breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness training, etc. They’re all very valuable. But if you have a performance in 5 minutes, and you’re stressed, you need a tool at the ready that can get the job done FAST. And that tool is circumlaryngeal massage, or as we call it in our office, the Voice Box Massage and Wiggle. Let’s find out why this is so important to have in your Voice Care Toolbox.
With this amazing tool, you can reduce the effects of stress on the vocal mechanism, even if you can’t entirely de-stress the rest of your life! The theory behind this highly effective technique is that stress causes increased muscle tension, which in turn increases vocal symptoms and pain. If you can reduce the muscle tension through direct massage and manipulation, you may be able to reduce those symptoms. Circumlaryngeal massage can be used to help warm up the voice before use, to restore voice quality after use, and to reduce vocal symptoms like tension or strain.
As we stress in the “how-to” video below, to learn laryngeal massage properly, you should be instructed by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist with special expertise in voice therapy. (Note: Karen Sussman, MA, CCC-SLP holds these credentials, and was lucky enough to be personally trained in this technique by the speech pathologist who first formulated this strategy to be used to treat vocal tension, the late Dr. Arnold Aronson). Also, you can certainly try this massage on yourself, but please don’t use it on another person. Without further ado, we invite you to watch our instructional video, which features our talented voice student Ashley. Ashley had been experiencing extreme vocal tension and progressively worsening vocal symptoms, until she eliminated reflux triggers, learned how to use therapeutic voice exercises to warm up her voice, and began using circumlaryngeal massage. So now you know, laryngeal massage can be an important component in your speaking or singing training or voice therapy program. If you have questions, please post them under the blog or under the YouTube video, or send us an inquiry here. Wishing you less stress, and that you achieve the Choice Voice you’ve always wanted!