Is your voice not strong enough? Do you have difficulty projecting? Voice fatigue?
One component could be because your core is weak and your posture inefficient, whether it be sitting or standing.
Let me tell you about my patient, Kaitlin. Kaitlin, once a collegiate athlete, now had difficulty speaking as she would lose her voice, become breathless and greatly fatigued after a day of working in an office with a lot of meetings requiring her to speak a lot.
Kaitlin was originally referred to me by Susan Bertucci, my friend and speech therapist. Susan recommended manual therapy for her vocal cord dysfunction (weakness of the vocal cord). Upon evaluation, in addition to the myofascial restrictions requiring manual therapy, we found Kaitlin’s core to be very weak and she had difficulty maintaining efficient posture when sitting or standing which then made it more difficult to speak and breathe.
Kaitlin received manual therapy to release any restricting tissues that were affecting her vocal cords. These tissues included the muscles and fascia around her neck and throat, back, abdomen, and diaphragm. She was given exercises to increase her core strength and improve neuromuscular control for “whole body” integration of her core with her arms and legs.
As she got stronger and began incorporating cardio exercise, such as elliptical and fast walking, Kaitlin noticed her breathing felt off. To manage her breathing while exercising, I recommended she count, talk or sing which forced her to breath naturally and keep at a pace that her respiratory system was ready for. Often times, when people complain of breathing difficulty when working out, it’s simply that they are working out too hard for their respiratory system to keep up. This is your body’s cue to slow down.
Kaitlin began to use a standing desk at work and we worked together to figure out the best sitting position for her, particularly when in meetings when she had to talk a lot. As Kaitlin is tall, she needed to raise her seat by sitting on 1-2 pillows in order for her to keep her feet flat on the floor and her back in good alignment. She also had to be cautious from looking down to read for too long as that would flare up her voice and breathing symptoms.
As she became stronger, she was given more advanced core exercises in standing and again we incorporated her voice during these exercises by counting or speaking.
Kaitlin is back to work full-time and understands her limitations for work and socializing to limit constraints on her voice. She has returned to exercising without difficulty.
Do you ever find yourself having difficulty breathing or speaking? Here are some tips you can use when you need to use your voice to your best advantage.
1 – Engage your Abs
Engaging the lower abdominals, in particular your transverse abdominis, helps support the back. You can use this simple: Place your tongue on the back of your top teeth and make the “thhh” sound. Hold for 5 seconds, then rest 5 seconds. Repeat this 10 times, twice per day (morning and night). You can also use this trick as you move throughout your day. To learn how to do this, check out my YouTube video
2 – Find your Center of Balance
Stand with your feet close together and rock forward onto the balls of your feet then back towards your heel. Make sure you are moving from the ankles and not the hips. Repeat this several times daily. Watch the “Center of Balance” video demonstration on YouTube to see how this is done.
3 – Be Mindful of Your Sitting and Standing Posture
Traditional advice from the time you were small rears its ugly head again.
Whenever you’re in the seated position, try these tips to regain your posture and improve sitting comfort:
- Place your knees lower than your hips, a wedge pillow under can help.
- Use a lumbar support pad behind the small of your back to support the normal curvature of the spine and promote proper posture.
- Choose a firm chair over something mushy that will compromise the position of your back.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor; do not cross your legs.
- Sitting the majority of your day will set you up for a boatload of issues. Check out my blog post for more tips on sitting posture, including the 2-minute exercises you can do at your desk.
- If you find yourself in a situation where you have to give a talk or presentation while sitting, you can follow these tips from a renown speaking coach to set yourself up for success.
We often have to stand in lines at the store, at a social event, at the train or bus stops, at the sink washing dishes, or – hopefully – at a standing desk. Maintaining good posture or alignment prevents you from irritating yourself. Here are some tips to ensure you’re using good standing posture:
- Stand evenly over both feet, shoulder width apart, do not lean more on one hip than the other.
- Relax your shoulders by lowering your chest and do not over pull shoulder blades back.
- Engage your abs (See #1 above)
- Find your center of balance over your whole feet (See #2 above)
For more tips on mindful movement, check out my free eBook: Mindful Tips for Pain-Free Daily Movement.
4 – Breathe from your Diaphragm
Breathing – sounds simple, right? Breathing is an unconscious activity that keeps us alive, but when moving around, talking or exercising, your breathing has to coordinate with your core stability and movement and that could take some practice.
Here’s an exercise you can do: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Engage abs, as instructed above, pulling belly button down towards spine. Place your hand on your upper belly, breathe into your hand and through your nose, expanding your belly first and then your chest, then exhale through your mouth all while keeping your abs engaged. Repeat this 5 times. When you are successful at doing this while lying down, do this in a seated and a standing position as well.
I hope you found these tips helpful!
If you’re having any difficulty breathing or speaking (or both), you can schedule an appointment with me by calling 847-541-7600 or click here to message me.
I’d be honored to have the opportunity to work with you to improve your overall function.
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