Muscle Tension Dysphonia

Relaxing image for my muscle tension dysphonia

Muscle Tension Dysphonia

***Please see updated paragraph at the bottom dated 3/8/12***

When I originally started this blog, I was told by my ENT that he suspected I had spasmodic dysphonia. My subsequent posts up through Tuesday, February 21, 2012 reflect that diagnosis.

On that date, though, I had an appointment with a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic who diagnosed me with Muscle Tension Dysphonia, which is similar but not the same thing as spasmodic dysphonia. The reasons he gave me for this diagnosis involved a few factors:

  • My voice has gradually worsened over time, rather than being erratic or “spasmodic”.
  • During his examination and laryngeal massage, he noted that my voice can be normal in certain circumstances – which also happens with spasmodic dysphonia but he saw a difference in my “normal” vs. a spasmodic dysphonia “normal”.
  • The fact that my voice responded to the massage, further points to muscle tension dysphonia.

What’s the difference between spasmodic dysphonia and muscle tension dysphonia?

The main difference is that the muscle tension dysphonia is a more “constant” muscle tension, not spasms like with spasmodic dysphonia. The muscle tension dysphonia is more of a learned behavior, where I have subconsciously trained myself to speak that way. It was likely brought on by some sort of vocal distress (which I cannot pinpoint) but from the research I’ve done, this can take months or even years to fully manifest. Therefore, I could’ve had a problem laryngitis or cold or something like that, and to compenstate my voice I recruited muscles that aren’t normally used for speaking. Over time, this became normal and I lost my starting point.

What is the treatment for muscle tension dysphonia?

Continuous therapy until my voice is re-trained. Unlike spasmodic dysphonia, muscle tension dysphonia is not typically responsive to Botox or surgery. The treament involves massage, practicing certain vocal sounds, and trying to rediscover my voice through practice and therapy. Also, keeping my stress levels down will help (excess stress will only exacerbate the problem).

The prognosis is good, as most muscle tension dysphonia patients can be treated/cured. I must admit I am relieved to not have to get an injection in my throat (Botox). I wanted to avoid that route from the beginning, even when I thought I had spasmodic dysphonia, because of the unknowns involved with injecting a poison into your body. That just seems wrong to me. Since the muscle tension dysphonia is more of a learned behavior, I basically have to un-learn it. Updates will continue on this blog while I work to beat my muscle tension dysphonia.

***Update on 3/8/12**** I may in fact still have spasmodic dysphonia. We will see, please see my blog post here for details and check back with my blog for other current updates past this date to see whether I have spasmodic dysphonia, muscle tension dysphonia, or both.

***Update on 3/20/12*** After my visit today at the Cleveland Clinic, it was determined that I do, in fact, have spasmodic dysphonia after all. Stay updated on my progress through my regular blog posts, I do NOT have muscle tension dysphonia after all.