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What Is Muscle Tension Dysphonia?

Individuals with muscle tension dysphonia experience pain in the vocal chords when attempting to speak.
Singers may experience muscle tension dysphonia.
Anti-inflammatory medications may help to relieve inflammation caused by muscle tension constriction.
Muscle tension dysphonia interferes with an individual's ability to speak normally.
Smoking can lead to dysphonia.
A person suffereing from muscle tension dysphonia may experience a sore neck.
Muscle tension dysphonia involves problems with the muscles around the vocal cords and in the throat.
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  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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Muscle tension dysphonia (MTD) is a health issue that affects the ability of the individual to speak or perform other vocal tasks normally. Some examples include hoarseness or situations in which a great deal of pain is felt in the throat and general area of the vocal cords when attempting to speak. The root cause of this type of disorder has to do with the improper function of the muscles in the throat and around the vocal cords.

Prolonged periods of stress and strain on the muscles used to produce sounds are normally the origin of this type of dysphonia. In some situations, the muscle tension causes the strained muscles around the voice box to tighten to a point that a great deal of pain is experienced while speaking. In addition, the effort to talk may cause fatigue. Over time, the quality of the voice will also suffer, often becoming raspy and rough.

There are several signs that muscle tension dysphonia is developing. People who sing may find that some notes that once came very easily are now out of range. The voice begins to cut out in the middle of a normal conversation. A constant sense of pain in the throat often develops whenever the individual tries to speak, and the neck may become very sore and extremely tender to the touch.

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In order to overcome muscle tension dysphonia, it is important for the individual to seek medical help immediately. A healthcare professional can examine the throat and vocal cords to determine if there is any underlying health issue causing the distress. If none is found, several tools can be used to help relieve the throat tension and begin to relax the tense muscles. Medication to help ease the inflammation caused by the muscle constriction is often a good first step.

Resting the vocal cords for at least a few hours a day may also be recommended. The rest will help give the tense muscles time to begin relaxing, and the inflammation that occurred as a result of the constricting action of the muscle tension to subside. Combining rest periods with medication can often help clear up the condition in as little as a week.

In addition, the medical professional may recommend that the patient see a speech therapist. Undergoing speech therapy can address the vocal habits that helped to develop the dysphonia initially, and help retrain the individual to make use of the vocal cords in a manner that will minimize the chances of a recurrence. With proper care and rest, it is possible to regain the normal tone and tenor of the voice, and eliminate the presence of any throat pain while speaking.

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anon332434
Post 23

I suffered from this years ago, due to poor technique, stress, and acid reflux caused by stress which eroded my esophagus. I went through therapy for months with Bastian Voice Institute. I almost had to drop my vocal scholarship and major due to this issue, so I'm advocating for this group because I wish someone had done it for me sooner. They work primarily with singers, but also work with people who rely on their speaking voice for a living. I am not getting paid to promote them, and they don't know about this. They are in Illinois.

anon327446
Post 22

I have had MTD for four months now and I sometimes I feel like punching myself in the throat because it is so frustrating. I am 20 years old and too young to sound like this. The healthcare system is a joke, speech therapy should be covered and I shouldn't have to go to four different ent's to get diagnosed.

My advice to everyone is to believe in progress, exercise, eat healthy, reduce toxic intake; it's all mind over matter. Good luck.

anon325380
Post 21

Please try circumcolaryngeal massage for face, neck and shoulder regions. Also, don't exert your voice. You could also try some breathing exercises for muscle tension dysphonia.

anon324602
Post 20

I'm also a teacher and have had what appears to be MTD for seven months now, with no relief and am in constant pain. Is there anything from herbal shops, etc. that people have found that works?

anon304543
Post 19

I have been diagnosed with MTD due to anxiety and stress by a speech therapist that my ENT sent me to. First I had a minute vocal polyp removed to no avail. I am a professional singer and now cannot sing at all, much less talk without pain and breaking off mid sentence. It's extremely depressing and I wonder how much longer I can endure the pain and if I can keep my job.

The speech therapy sessions are done while I'm in pain and that makes no sense to me - it's not getting better. I'm always wondering if I have a food allergy or cancer - a concrete, visible explanation would somehow relieve me.

There was a period of two months this year that I almost went pain-free and I could sing like before, but then I tried out for a play, got the part and things went to hades again. I'm going to the ENT one more time to get my thyroid checked again and to have my larnyx checked. If that shows nothing, I give up and, I guess, live in pain.

I did try anti-anxiety/depressants, but I'm the kind of person that gets the worst of the side effects, but I will go back and try again to see if it helps. This is the most trying thing of my life so far, and I've endured others.

cgs
Post 18

I have been diagnosed as having muscle tension dysphonia and advised to do laryngeal massage for face, neck and shoulders. I have undergone speech therapy too but nothing has helped. I was into teaching earlier. I had to give it up. Uttering even one sentence is a big challenge. It's very frustrating. Can someone help please?

anon294267
Post 17

I have been diagnosed with MTD. I was into teaching. I had to give up my job. I have been advised to do laryngeal massage for face, neck and shoulder muscles, but the voice has not fully returned to normal. It seems that I have breathing problems too (shortness of breath) which interferes with my speaking. Speaking even one sentence is a huge challenge. Will someone please help?

anon279169
Post 16

For about four to six months, I have had throat problems every day. Whenever I try to speak, my voice tone cracks, I feel a little pain inside my throat and right below. It is very difficult to produce the right amount of air while speaking. So what should I do to recover from this? Give me some tips or exercises to recover from it on my own at home.

anon276892
Post 15

I have been struggling with a choked throat and hoarseness for about 20 days now. I consulted an ENT who clarifies it's MTD and suggests voice rest! I further investigated with my thyroid specialist, who says it has nothing to do with it.

I confess I talk a lot, but never in a high pitch and I don't sing, either, so where did this MTD erupt from? I personally feel it's more to do with my mental wellness than the physical. I plan to go in for crystal healing from a close friend!

wigster4
Post 14

@anon124857: Your problem sounds the very same as mine. I have pain free days and then days of pain while speaking. Its head-wrecking because you never know how your voice will be, and just when you think its great the pain starts again.

From April to December of last year, I thought the tension had gone and then bang, in December, I got a chest infection and the pain started again and is still hurting.

I've wracked my brain to see if it's anxiety, stress or related to being upset, but I can't find a pattern. It can come on when I'm feeling fine, so it's devastating to my life because I love to talk and have to try and stay home most days to keep from talking.

Are any of you guys feeling any better about your voices, or are they still the same? Anyone with any tips? I don't know anyone else who has pain while talking. It's the worst thing ever!

anon238953
Post 13

I have read the comments regarding MTD. It is most frustrating to have this condition and the medical system can even make it more frustrating. One of my doctors had never heard of it and said good luck. The only people who seem to understand are speech therapists and they are limited with their resources.

I make my living from sales and everyone thinks I'm sick. I have had to leave my job and everyone will ask me, "When are you getting your voice back?" I do not know and am not sure what to do.

anon232852
Post 12

Really glad to see this page. I lost my voice in the morning on New Year's Eve 2010 due to laryngitis and developed MTD shortly afterwards. My work involves my voice. At first I didn't notice any constriction in my throat but these days it can be unbearable. I'm only just beginning to understand the condition - the health service in my area is very slow - but getting there.

My thoughts are for anybody else who suddenly and unfortunately becomes aware of this illness!

anon228869
Post 11

I am also a teacher and have had MTD off and on for over ten years. My vocal cords stay open rather than closed. I have a speaker system the district has purchased for me that works quite well, but I find I am more exhausted at the end of the day. It is extremely frustrating.

I can't really say if my numerous bouts with voice therapy has helped or not. Sometimes my voice comes back on it's own. I have lost my voice twice for six months, and twice for nine months. Other times it's only a few months. My heart goes out the rest of you, but it's nice to know I'm not alone.

wigster4
Post 10

Since I posted my last comment, my voice is improved. I still get days where I get some pinching when I talk but it's a lot less than it was, which I can deal with. I'm still off my anxiety tabs.

I get days where my tongue feels tense and it's uncomfortable to talk, but I just chew lots of gum and this seems to help with the tongue tension. I think this is anxiety but I'm keeping positive that some day my voice problem will disappear.

Definitely the therapy helped and the breathing. Just keep at it and it will eventually become natural. Sometimes I still have to remind myself to breathe into my tummy, but it does become easier. If any of you would like to post a message to me, I wouldn't mind at all. Just let me know. It's nice to have someone who can relate to the condition because others just don't understand.

anon226242
Post 9

Wow, I was thinking I was losing my mind. I too have MTD. I have had therapy. But it caused me more anxiety. I will be starting with a new therapist soon. The breathing is important, but I just can't make it flow naturally. I feel relieved I am not the only one going through this. I had to quit my job of 37 years and my life is so different than two years ago. I need to relax. Okay. I can do that!

wigster4
Post 8

I have had mtd for three years. I've gone through two sets of speech therapy with no relief, so I looked up dr. cooper's methods and this helped. I also had to go on anxiety tabs because I was so anxious, and this helped a little but I still had pain while talking.

I met with a therapist this april who said I was doing really well with my breathing, but I was just forcing my tummy in too much while talking, so I worked on this.

She also said to stop analyzing why it's good some days and bad others because it might be anxiety related! So I did what she said and my voice improved greatly, so I decided to wean myself off my anxiety tabs as my voice has felt great for the last two months, but alas, for the last three weeks, the pinching sensation I felt is returning when I talk and so is my anxiety.

So now I'm wondering if, after three years, maybe it is anxiety that's causing the muscles to tighten up. I used to get the pain in my lower throat, but now since I placed my voice in the mask area from the therapy, it's on the soft palate! My therapist said she never heard of any one with pinching sensations. Does anyone else have this? Please help.

anon176864
Post 7

I have not been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia but I can tell you that I have all the signs. I am going to see a Otolaryngologist soon. I really need some help! I have lived with this pain and this voice that breaks, shortness of breath, etc. I have really suffered and no one around me understands what I am going through. If anyone can help, please let me know!

anon172370
Post 6

I am a teacher and I lost my voice on October 2010 it is now May 2011 and last week I had "a voice" for five days then I lost it again.

University of Miami doctors say it's MTD. My ENT has no clue how to help me. I have been in speech therapy but my insurance no longer covers my sessions. I am also seeing a psychologist because one of the many people that I saw said that it would help.

Today I saw my ENT and I expressed how frustrated I am and he just shrugged his shoulders and said I know. I then asked about going back to work he stated that maybe in August even if I still haven't regained my voice we could "give it a try". I am extremely frustrated which tightens up my vocal cords even more.

Is there anything I can do to get my voice back and keep it. As a teacher I can't whisper and expect my students to listen.

anon162243
Post 5

I haven't spoken more than a whisper since December. My first diagnosis was spasmodic dysphonia, but after consult at a well regarded hospital.

I was told I have MTD. I've been in speech therapy but without much change. I too, do all the exercises faithfully and have a good attitude about it, but nothing helps. It's been suggested I see a psychologist and now I'm upset. I question myself if this is truly a medical issue or a mental one.

Most people around me, including my speech therapist, suggest it's due to anxiety and stress and I should get help to relax. Can anyone else who has this shed some light on the subject one way or the other?

anon160242
Post 4

Wow you guys i am exactly the same. It was two years last january. I have had endless speech therapy, and do the exercises religiously. I have to turn down invitations to noisy places, and not chat much when my kids call me from uni. I have good days and bad days.

I try to rest my voice but family life doesn't lend itself to too many quiet days. No idea now what will work, as soon as i have a half hour chat my throat starts to hurt for the rest of the day. I drink endlessly and suck throat sweets. Any extra ideas would be great. Thanks.

anon134519
Post 3

What is the leader breathing technique? I've never heard of it.

anon132017
Post 2

I was diagnosed with MTD eight years ago after suffering for two years without so much as a satisfactory medical explanation. I have been persisting with my speech therapy exercises ever since then.

Five years ago, I started singing again and my voice has all but returned to normal. For me it was a long and very painful road to recovery but I understand that this is not always the case. I still have excessive tiredness in the right side of my jaw but I keep working at it and I'm sure it will improve.

Also my confidence is still reeling but then a few knocks in life can make you a better person. Best of luck though, it will improve but setbacks are part of the recovery.

anon124857
Post 1

I have had mtd for two years and did two sets of a speech therapy. The first time didn't work, as I was too anxious.

The second time, I did the leader breathing technique and it helped but my problem is my throat hurts most days and then i have days of complete pain free when speaking. Don't know why it's pain free some days and very painful others.

is this normal with mtd or should it stay improving and not going backward. I'm doing the d prop speech technique for six months so maybe I'm expecting recovery too soon. How long should it take? thanks.

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