Could Back Pain Affect Your Voice?

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on October 2, 2013

TurtleThere’s probably not a reader out there who has never been plagued with back pain.  In fact, it’s one of the top complaints that sends people running (or walking carefully) to the doctor’s office.

Back pain is miserable, but can it actually affect your voice?  You bet it can!  Breathing is the energy for speech, and good breathing depends on good posture.  Let’s look at some of the common causes for back pain and see how they might also affect voice.

Slumping forward, as many of us do everyday when using our computers, tablets, e-readers or phones, puts more pressure on the diaphragm (the main muscle used for breathing).  This makes it more difficult to take good inhalations, and the effects on the voice from poor breathing are immediate.  Over time this position can also cause back pain.  (For more on proper breathing, click here.)

Ever see a turtle with its head jutting out of its shell like the guy above? Well, many of us use this head position when working at the computer.  This forward thrust of the head stretches and stresses the muscles in the neck.  This affects our vocal folds and may raise our pitch.  (For more on how tension in the throat affects pitch, click here.)

We also tend to look down at electronic equipment, which compresses the larynx, found right behind your Adam’s apple, as well as putting more tension in the neck.  Doctor’s are reporting that this habit of looking down when using a phone, e-reader or tablet is becoming one of the main causes of back pain in younger adults.

For good voicing you want to sit or stand tall so that your lungs can expand freely.  You also want to keep your chin parallel to the floor to avoid tension in the larynx.  And guess what?  This is the best posture to avoid back pain as well.

Here are a few quick exercises to do several times a day to correct your posture (as always, consult your doctor if any of these cause pain):

•  First, stand and reach over your head as if you’re picking apples just out of your reach first with one hand and then another.  Do this for a few seconds.

•  Next, roll your shoulders back by making big circles with your elbows. Focus on bringing your shoulder blades together.  Do this about 5 times.

•  And finally, stand and pretend you’re rowing a boat.  Keep your arms at armpit level and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the oars back.  Do this 5 times.

Use these exercises throughout the day, and you’ll be sitting and standing tall without back pain!  Plus you’ll hear the difference in your voice.

If you’d like more exercises that benefit your voice, ck out my ebook, the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK You can download it instantly!

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