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Massage designed to treat laryngitis

May 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you use your voice too much, you could risk losing it. While some hoarseness is temporary, there's another vocal condition that can be a lot more serious -- and lasting. There's a new way to treat laryngitis.

Those who do a lot of talking every day, like lawyers, lecturers and teachers, know that losing your voice can be frustrating and even painful. Now there's a new way to help those people get their voices back without any drugs at all.

For Leslie Odom, singing is more a way of life than just a hobby.

"We were raised going to concerts and singing in church," says Leslie.

She's got a degree in music, teaches it to school kids and sings in a church group too. Music has always been her inspiration.

"I guess I've had some really down times, and it gives me hope," said Leslie.

But when Leslie had thyroid surgery a few years ago, the music stopped. She couldn't sing more than a note or two, and even had to quit her church group.

"It just started to affect me emotionally. I spent a lot of time crying," says Leslie.

Doctors said she had muscle tension dysphonia. It happens when muscles around the voice-box tighten up, causing hoarseness and voice fatigue.

Treatment used to mean speech therapy, but doctors now use a massage designed just for the vocal chords.

"We're applying it directly to the throat, the larynx area," says physical therapist Carey Tomlinson.

Tomlinson performs a myofascial release. She separates the hyoid bone between the chin and neck from thyroid cartilage below, allowing the vocal chords to properly align.

"So what we're trying to do is get the big muscles around the neck," says Tomlinson.

A Vanderbilt study says this technique helped two-thirds of patients improve. While it's often uncomfortable and painful, Leslie did find her voice again after eight weeks.

"When I started, I couldn't sing, and I couldn't talk for any length of time. Now I can do both," says Leslie.

She's now hitting notes she hasn't touched since she was a teen, and the results are crystal clear.

Dr. Gaelyn Garrett, a doctor at Vanderbilt Voice Center, says many people diagnosed with acid reflux laryngitis actually have muscle tension dysphonia. In her study, 67 percent of those on acid reflux drugs didn't report improvement, but many did benefit from this technique.

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