Signs of mucous-laden vocal cords:You may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- On the low end, you can't sing clearly... there is an uncontrolled buzz in the sound, sort of like when you leave a pick in the neck of a guitar and try to play it (ask me how I know!)
- In the middle of your range, your voice just doesn't seem to be able to get into that beautiful sweet spot 'mix' you know you're capable of, so you feel like you have to push harder to reach notes.
- You may notice some weird 'glitches' - certain notes that you can't seem to sing smoothly through.
- You have trouble in your head voice, too... you know it shouldn't be that hard to hit the top of your range.
- You cough a little, gunk shifts and clears somewhat, but you can't cough enough to stay clear.
- Trying to sustain a long note that is normally easy for you to float out there becomes as uncontrolled as if you were singing over speed bumps.
- Your tone isn't as bell-like and brilliant.. it's more like singing through a wet sock.
- Again, sounding your voice isn't painful (which might make you suspect vocal cord damage of some kind), it just doesn't work like you know it should.
Every voice needs a little 'phlegm'The vocal cords need a thin, healthy layer of mucous to operate best. The movement of the cords (folds) which creates soundwaves is called the mucosal wave for heaven's sake! But when this layer gets too thick, it can interfere with the vibration and control of the vocal cords. AHHH ... what can you do???
Tips to thin out vocal cord mucous...
- My personal magical go-too for irritated cords is water with a little pineapple juice (1/4 pineapple juice + 3/4 water).
- Water with fresh lemon juice plus cayenne pepper (my sister calls this firewater).
- Ginger tea (steep grated or thinly sliced fresh ginger root in hot water, add lemon juice.)
- Try hot herbal teas, but avoid black or green tea or caffeinated drinks which can dehydrate.
Also hydrate yourself externally... inhale steam.
CHECK YOUR DIETTry avoiding mucous-promoting foods such as milk products, eggs, foods you have trouble digesting well and heavy meals in general. Up your intake of watery foods, fruits, non-starchy vegetables. Understand however that different people react differently to foods; keep a journal and NOTICE what tends to increase your phlegm.
DEAL WITH ALLERGIESIf it's allergies stirring up your mucous, you simply must address the root of your problems. Lots of the strategies for dealing with allergies can help with vocal cord phlegm.
DO LONGER VOCAL WARMUPSWith careful, correctly executed and gradually more strenuous vocal exercises, literally vibrate some mucous loose from your cords. This may mean your voice gets worse before it gets better at the end of your vocal warmup. You should take a little more time than usual to get your voice warmed up before singing full volume.
Move around physically, too... sometimes aerobic exercise can help move mucous on out.
IF IN DOUBT... CHECK IT OUT - WITH A DOCTOR!If you are blowing or coughing yellow or green or have any indications that your mucous formation could be due to a bacterial or fungal infection, make the appointment today - see a medical doctor. In persistent cases you might want to get your vocal cords scoped at a dedicated medical voice center.
TRY NATURAL REMEDIESUsing a Neti Pot or other nasal irrigation device at bedtime and in the morning can really thin out and dilute mucous secretions from above your vocal cords, as well as soothe throat tissues. The important thing is to get the saline solution right, so follow directions! Also... be sure to use clean water.
There are herbs, essential oils and other alternative remedies for dealing with counterproductive amounts of mucous. As with medical doctors, I recommend going to a professional in the alternative health arena so you don't self-medicate without good information.
Some of my clients have been helped by lymph drainage massage such as demonstrated in this Youtube video by Heather Wibbels, LMT :
DO NOT...... cough hard or repeatedly. Coughing is a great way to get laryngitis!
... drink alcohol or smoke. Duh.
... don't abuse your already unhappy vocal cords in any way, whether speaking or singing!
OK what about you... ever feel like you are about to drown in phlegm? What worked/ didn't work?