woman with sore throat
woman with sore throat
woman with sore throat

Muscle Tension Dysphonia

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What is muscle tension dysphonia?

Muscle tension dysphonia is a change in the sound or feel of your voice due to excessive muscle tension in and around the voice box. This can include the vocal folds and the other accessory muscles of the larynx. Muscle tension dysphonia is a “functional dysphonia,” whereby a pattern of muscle use develops from irritants, laryngitis or even stress, among other conditions. While the initial cause may go away, the voice changes remain because of the excessive squeeze or tension that results with voice use.

What are the symptoms of muscle tension dysphonia?

The most common symptoms of muscle tension dysphonia include:

  • Voice that sounds rough, hoarse, gravelly or raspy.
  • Voice that sounds weak, breathy, airy or is only a whisper.
  • Voice that sounds strained, pressed, squeezed, tight or tense.
  • Voice that suddenly cuts out, breaks off, changes pitch or fades away.
  • Voice that “gives out” or becomes weaker the longer the voice is used.
  • Pitch that is too high or too low.
  • Difficulty singing notes that used to be easy.
  • Pain or tension in the throat when speaking or singing.
  • Feeling like the throat is tired when speaking or singing.

How is muscle tension dysphonia diagnosed?

  • Muscle tension dysphonia is primarily diagnosed through the evaluation of your voice and vocal folds (with a camera examination) by a voice specialist and/or a speech language pathologist.
  • Muscle tension dysphonia is a diagnosis of exclusion and requires a full history, examination and exclusion of other causes by an experienced health care provider.

Muscle Tension Dysphonia Treatment

Treatment for muscle tension dysphonia primarily includes voice therapy with a speech-language pathologist to reduce throat tension and maximize vocal efficiency. You may be asked to pursue treatments that aid in tension release, such as massage, acupuncture, psychotherapy or physical therapy, at the same time you are receiving voice therapy. Voice therapy is typically multiple sessions to help reduce the muscle tension pattern.

Your physician may offer other medical or surgical treatments to address any underlying causes for your muscle tension dysphonia.

Johns Hopkins Laryngology

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