By Krista Sheehan*
Composed of muscle tis- sue, vocal cords are the two small elastic bands within the larynx. When air is exhaled through the trachea, it passes through the closed vo- cal cords, causing them to vibrate and produce noise. When you are not speaking, the vocal cords remain open and allow you to breathe. Occasionally, the small elastic bands become damaged, which im- pacts breathing, speak- ing, eating and cough- ing, Damaged vocal cord exercises aim to help you regain control of your vocal cords and throat.
If the damage to your vo- cal cords has caused them to become weak, strength- ening exercises may help your condition. Pronounc- ing words and phrases that begin with a vowel tend to be the best exercises for ac- tivating the vocal cords. The Aurora Health Care web- site recommends repeat- ing the phrase “Ah-Ah-Ah” with a hard onset 10 times
at least three times per day. Throughout the day, chal- lenge yourself to repeat words that begin with vow- els, such as “upstairs, ele- phant, ignore, accident and owl.” As you say the words, try to emphasize the first sound.
If you are having trouble clearly enunciating the words or phrases used in the strengthening exercises, consider combining them with the push-pull technique. The SpeechPathology web- site recommends pushing or pulling up against seat of a chair while simultaneously repeating the “Ah-Ah-Ah” phrase to make the exercise more effective. The push/ pull movements are thought to encourage closing of the vocal cords, which helps in pronunciation.
The SpeechPathology web- site also recommends a “su- praglottic swallow maneu- ver,” which can help clear the throat in preparation of speech. For this exercise, turn the head toward the side of the damaged vocal cords. If vocal cords on both
sides are damaged, sim- ply leave the head pointing forward. Hold your breath tightly while swallowing. Then, cough immediately after swallowing before ex- haling. The throat is cleared during the swallowing phase, while the coughing phase helps bring the vocal cords closer together.
Relaxing the Throat
Learning how to relax the throat can help you main- tain control of your breath- ing and damaged vocal cords. The Journal Of Ath- letic Training recommends initiating this throat relax- ation exercise while lying on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your hand on your abdomen as you inhale slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through pursed lips. Watch your hand as it moves up and down with each breath. Alter the speed of your in- halations and exhalations, keeping the throat relaxed with each breath. As you become familiar with the ex- ercise, practice breathing in upright, squatting, leaning forward and bending over positions.
* Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.