How to Look After Your Vocal Cords

My earliest memory as a kid, suffering from tonsillitis, was my doctor asking me my name.  I was shocked since he was our family doctor and had been treating me ever since I was a toddler.  Later I realised that he posed the question to me so that he could ascertain how badly my vocal cord was infected.  After checking my vitals,  he prescribed a set of medicines and left me with instructions to take care of my voice reeds.  While I religiously consumed the medicines, I turned a deaf ear to the instructions.

It was only after I started training in Carnatic music, I got a reiteration of the fact that the voice which we use everyday and which is so much taken for granted is the most powerful tool that each of us has.  I started recalling the general set of dos and don’ts my doctor had prescribed to take care of my vocal folds going forward. Some of his words of wisdom were:

1. Avoid stress:

If you stress your voice over longer duration, it can damage your vocals causing irreversible dysphonia.  Also your physical stress has the potential to directly impact your vocals; thereby, resulting in voice discomfort. Hence, avoid stress!

2. Do not shout on top of your voice:

This should be avoided at all costs or else you risk damaging the lining of your voice reeds, causing hoarseness. So if you habitually raise your voice due to loss of temper, it is time to deep dive and figure out what is stressing you.  You may want to try counselling since your voice is way too precious to risk it in this manner.

3. Acid Reflux:

This is a condition in which stomach acid flows up towards the vocal folds, causing soreness. To lower its occurrence, try to eat peacefully and give your body enough time to digest food properly before going to bed.

4. Adequate nourishment and hydration:

Stress can cause you to go without food or overeat.  Similarly, you may not be drinking enough fluids throughout the day, which is likely to result in dehydration and a dry throat. Hence, eat a balanced healthy diet and keep your body hydrated.  You need to avoid smoking and drinking.

5. Vocal Naps:

It is advisable to have quiet periods or at least a 15 minutes break after an arduous practice session.  During the break time, avoid talking or speak in a low voice, if at all needed

6. Take care of your Posture:

Always maintain good posture like sitting or standing erect when speaking or singing.  Avoid hunchback.  This puts a strain on your neck muscles, which are important in voice production.

7. Make saline gargles a daily must to have in your routine:

Last but not the least, indulge in throat-clearing with saline gargle on a daily basis. Additionally, lukewarm water gargles with a pinch of salt or turmeric are known to do wonders! 

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