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Health & Medicine

Full Voice: Physical Therapy for Vocal Health

Creative Commons,

For many people, working out is a way of life.  They’re determined to keep their bodies in shape, but those same people might never give a thought to their voices.  That’s why the University of Virginia hosted a workshop on the subject.

For professional singers like Erin Lunsford the voice pays the bills. However, it’s not just the rock stars and opera singers who need to take care of their voices. Teachers, lawyers, doctors – almost of all of us -- need our voices to work.

“If you can’t use your voice there are very few jobs that you can get out there. Then also it affects you psychologically when you cannot communicate with your loved ones or with your friends and family,” says Dr. Jim Daneiro, head of the Voice and Swallowing Clinic at the University of Virginia. He wants to change the way people think about their voices to see talking as something closer to exercise.  “Anybody who uses their voice a lot is akin to anyone who’s throwing a baseball and they’re using their shoulder a lot. It’s going to wear out at some point.”  

Credit University of Virginia
Dr. James Daniero

Which is why Daneiro sometimes recommends physical therapy for people having trouble speaking or singing.

“Probably the number one thing I see in clinic is strain and stress in the neck and shoulder area that is translated to the voice. We get them into physical therapy or speech therapy and they usually get better.”

But for others, the solution is even easier. 

“The single best thing that you can do to take care of your voice is to make sure you’re drinking enough water and not too much caffeine.”

Daneiro says 58 percent of teachers suffer voice disorders during their careers, and 20% annually need time off so their voice can recover. For the general population, those numbers are a little lower but still significant, with nearly 30% suffering voice problems and 7% losing time from work each year -- yet another reason to gossip around the water cooler at work, drinking up and giving your voice a break.