Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Vocal cord dysfunction is a condition that is often misdiagnosed as exercise-induced asthma. Asthma medications are not effective for those individuals with vocal cord dysfunction. The vocal cords in your throat open when you breathe in and close as you breathe out, unless you suffer from vocal cord dysfunction. Then, your vocal cords close when they shouldn’t, which limits your ability to inhale air. A whining or high-pitched sound may be present when you inhale if you have vocal cord dysfunction. Breathing exercises are very beneficial and a common treatment option for individuals with vocal cord dysfunction. Below are some exercises to target breathing efficiency.
Lying Down Breathing Exercise
- Lie face up on the floor in a supine position (on back). Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Relax your neck, shoulder blades and throat, letting your body sink into the floor. Place your hand or a book on your stomach so you can observe the movement of your abdomen during the exercise. The book will be more difficult to lift so you may wish to work up to using a book.
- Inhale through your nose as if you were sniffing a flower. Breathe into your abdomen and watch the book or your hand move upward as you inhale. Do not breathe with your upper chest. Keep your chest and shoulders stationary.
- Purse your lips as if blowing out a candle, but do not pucker them away from your teeth. Exhale through your mouth and either making a soft hissing sound or whisper “ffff” or “shhh.” Observe the book or your hand lowering as you breathe out without any active contraction of your abdominal muscles.
- Continue inhaling and exhaling, making your preferred sounds for at least a few minutes. Alternate between taking quick breaths and long, slow breaths. Perform this exercise three times a day.
Seated Breathing Exercise
- Sit up straight with your shoulders pulled back and your chin level with the floor. Place your hands on the sides of your body with your elbows bent. Hold near the lower area of your rib cage so that you can feel your ribs expanding during the exercise and know you are doing it correctly.
- Inhale through your nose as if sniffing and draw the air into your abdomen. Your lower ribs should expand. Keep the rest of your upper body still and relaxed, especially your throat and upper chest.
- Exhale through pursed lips. Whisper a letter or sound such as “s,” “f'” or “sh” or hiss as you breathe out. Feel your lower ribs gently contract back to their original position. Do not force your ribs to move. Breathe for a few minutes sitting upright.
- Change your seated position so that you are leaning forward or completely bent over and continue to do this breathing exercise. Keep the upper body relaxed and your hands on your ribs even in these new positions. Perform this exercise three times daily.
*It is recommended that you start off lying face up first, and then progress to sitting or standing up and eventually practicing breathing exercises during aerobic activity. You may place your hand on your abdomen or use a mirror for feedback during exercises.*