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Burning throat sensation when speaking and singing - help needed!

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First of all, what a great forum. This is just the place I have been looking for. :)

My name is Jens, I'm 23 and I live in Denmark, Copenhagen.

My problem is that I constantly have a burning sensation in my throat. This interferes in my every day life. I used to sing and talk at a regular basis - but now I can't do those things anymore. I don't know what to do, and the experts cannot give me any clear advise of what needs to be done in order to overcome my throat condition.

My background story;

It started 2 years back. I was a smoker - 20 a day. But suddenly I was diagnosed with faryngit. Which meant that I had to stop smoking. So back then my throat showed signs of weakness. But it didn't interfere with my singing nor my speaking. The faryngit went way when I hadn't smoked for a couple of days. So not that big a problem.

I used to sing at a regular basis in my rock band. I'd never received any form of singing lessons. But I managed to sing a lot anyways. And I loved it. Then one year after the faryngit it slowly started to hurt a little bit in my throat, when I recorded in the studio. This pain worsened as the months went by. Then the pain started to come when I had to raise my voice (as an elementary-school teacher) in the classroom.

Six months ago, I started to feel so troubled by this pain, just by speaking, that I went to see en ENT. She told me that I had small "dots" on my vocal cords. It was a pre-stadium to nodules. So she put me on a lot of medication to stop my mucous membrane from being so inflamed. I both took pills and used inhalers. But none of this medication did anything to the still growing pain in my throat. It only got worse. I was sent to a doctor that stuck a tube down my throat, just to tell me that it had nothing to do with "reflux". My stomach was working fine.

So I was sent to a speech teacher, and her I have seen for 4 months now. She discovered that my speech technique was very much damaging to my vocal cords. But since then I have improved a lot by learning using my support. I haven't mastered it at all yet - but i'm getting better still, stretching and exercising two times a day with lip trills and so on.

But recently, as I still felt no improvement to the still growing burning in my throat, I tried taking a total silent period of 9 days. No taking or speaking or even laughing! I was told by a professionel singing teacher that that would remove the small nodules on my vocal chords, which probably was causing my throat-problem. BUT after the 9 days I'm still feeling a burning sensation + a significant "lump" sitting in my throat. It is worsened when singing or speaking, but not bettered when taking a silent break. This fact frustrates the hell out of me!

I have started running 2 times a week, and I'm now eating food which is mainly "base" based and i'm trying to stay away from very acid filled food, such as meat and eggs and so on. I take vitamin pills and fish-oil pills every day.

But i'm starting to get very frustrated and depressed. I am scared that there is something fundamentally broken in my throat, perhaps caused by me smoking. I really could use some advice! I play in a band, as the lead singer and we're about to really make it. So that stresses me a lot! If I can't do this, my whole life is in ruins. It's my whole future... I can't even work a day job right now, because the pain is there constantly and is unbearable when I have spent a whole day speaking!

What can I do, when silence and "support-exercises" does not seem to do the trick alone?

I really hope someone will take the time to read this! It would mean a lot to me. And excuse my english! :)

Thanks in advance,

Jens Høy, Denmark

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Hey Jens, not sure what 'pre-stadium to nodules' but sounds like you have nodules or pre-nodules which are little calluses on your vocal cords from being rubbed together too much. I'm not an expert on these, but I do know that they will take much more than 9 days of silence to recover. They usually take a few months to a year to subside depending on size and how long you've had them. But they usually do subside, especially if they are 'pre-nodules' as these are still softer and smaller.

One thing that sounds a bit strange is the burning pain. I'm curious to hear from more knowledgeable folk if pain is commonly associated with nodules. I often hear that you don't actually feel them directly but you only hear their effects and maybe feel a bit of a lump in the throat, but not direct pain, so I'm not sure if pain is indicative of a possible second disorder.

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Thanks for your answer! :)

Actually I just visited my ENT yesterday. And he said that the "pre-nodules" we're totally gone. He also said that I was kinda red at the back of my vocal cords, indicating that I might have a tiny problem with acid reflux. But I strongly doubt that, seeing that I never experience acid regurgitation in my mouth. So It's sounds kinda far fetched to me. But I am on the medication against acid reflux once again, And I'm planning to stay that for a long while now.

I still don't get why I'm experiencing all this burning in my throat though!

My ENT also said that my voice was not over puberty yet, and that that was maybe the reason, why I have this pain when I'm speaking thorugh a whole day.

Do any of you have experience with this, or any advice in this direction??

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There can be acid reflux that irritates back of vocal folds WITHOUT any other "heartburn"-type symptoms.

And if the reflux medication is going to be helpful, you won't know for at least a month... 3-6 months is a normal trial according to the ENTs I work with & trust. So if you are tolerating the medication (without annoying side effects,) try to stick with it for now.

Throat pain -- even the sore-throat kind -- can also, in some cases, be "referred pain" from little knots of tension in the outer neck muscles (Scalenes and/or sterno-cleido-mastoid). Some massage people and physical therapists can help with this, you would need to ask about "trigger point" therapy or "myofascial release."

Finally, in all such cases, deep relaxation of throat/neck/and breath muscles is very important; avoiding any temptation to "compensate" and make the cords sound better/healthier than they really are. Unless you're being paid scads of money, that is ...

Certainly if you're still in the transition between child-and man-voice, relaxation is even more important; tolerating the wobbles & fluctuations without expecting the instrument to work the same hour to hour and day to day. One can [nearly] always muscle-through such problems, but the result is bad habits that will linger once voice is anatomically more stable.

So generally, its best to be away from performance pressure for 6 months or so, let your voice transition , let cells heal from acid, and meanwhile explore breathing techniques, & other aspects of musicianship..

youll be fine!


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  • 2 months later...

Thank you for the comforting post, Joanna.

My speech therapist tells me that I'm getting better still at talking and singing. So I guess it's going in the right direction.

But something is still confusing me; when I'm out getting my drink on, with loud music, loud talking and maybe even acoustic guitars and singing a little bit (I want to test my voice now and then, to see how it feels in my throat), then I actually feel fine in the moment AND the day after. I'm not very hoarse, and my burning throat-sensation is not there. But then, when a couple of days have gone by, I start to feel the burning again, and my throat feels very tired very quickly from almost no talking at all. It's every morning when I awake, and then it seems to go away during the day. Some mornings it's not there, but then again, most mornings it is.

How come this pattern? Shouldn't I be feeling the consequences of my drinking, loud talking and singing, the day after? Or is this burning-sensation and tiredness not coming from my clubbing, but maybe from something I breath when I sleep, or something completely else??

I hope someone can give me a word of advice, because it seems that my acid reflux medicin is not taking care of the burning in my throat, as the doctor thought it would.

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OK I'm gonna sound a little like a scold. I've just treated too many people in these situations, I've heard almost every story there is.

If you are serious about recovering from your difficulties, please DONT keep testing your voice/throat with drink & extreme usage!

Heroic journeys out of danger always include moments when the fear of change takes over. Impatience to get to the new life mixes up with temptation to look back at the old. re-read Lot's wife in the Bible; or Orpheus in classic mythology. Your conscious thought may be to find out how your voice is doing... underneath most folks have an anxiety about change, fear of the unfamiliar. That's normal, and there are ways to play the mental game that keep you in the deeper transformation, plodding forward, not falling backward, just staying clean & healthy & hopeful. Once you're fully healed, you can try tiny steps back-into-the-old-life, but right now those "tests" just prolong your agony.

If you can't talk to your speech therapist at this level, talk to SOMEONE.

Next: reflux medication takes months to work, not weeks. You can speed it up a little by taking some Gaviscon at bedtime, especially when you've had a drink. This is an over-the-counter old-fashioned antacid, coming back into fashion & scientific interest. Very safe & combines OK with the prescription meds. If you don't see it at drug store just ask pharmacist. But again you've got to be patient with it all.

As to the delayed response to your test-excursions: without the ability to scope you at the moment its a little hard to tell.

Sometimes, overusing the cords gets them a little swollen, and that swelling "evens out" the irregularities caused by underlying damage. So for a little while you sound better & the cords get easier closure without extra muscle work. Once this wears off, you're worse than you were, or at least you've lost a few days of healing & are set-back to the previous week's lesions. Combine this with some painkilling properties in the alcohol, and some emotional relief from singing a little, and I can imagine you might feel that (illusory) improvement for 24 hrs or more.

This week, try staying really-goody-good, and get a neck massage instead of a drink. (note previous comments about neck pain referring into throat-burn sensations). Run that humidifier every night, take long showers, See what happens.

You might also check out my "Visualizations for Singers" CD, there are very specific relaxations for throat and for vocal damage. Click through my website or just go to Amazon.

That's the best I can advise ... hang in there!!

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What Joanna said.

Acid reflux is not always about regurgitating. It can come from the vapors of acid from the stomach. For the vapors can contact the folds.

Second, alcohol has a few effects you need to look out for. First off, drinking too much relaxes you too quickly to achieve proper coordination when singing. This happens long before the systemic dehydration.

Systemic dehydration. Over the period of a few hours, the alcohol content in the blood rises, replacing the water that is normally there. Water lubricates, alcohol dehydrates. In fact, alcohol is advocated in certain uses because it dries so quickly.

Also, the anaesthetic effect. You may think you are doing fine after a few drinks but you are not feeling the damage you are doing at the time.

You do not have to drink to have a good time. You may or may not be to young to remember Van Halen shows. David Lee Roth would take a monster swig from a bottle of Jack Daniels Whisky (black label, Black Jack, we used to call it.) From his own words in his memoirs, "Crazy from the Heat": that bottle was filled with apple juice. "There is no way that you could do the acrobatics I would do unless you were stone, cold sober." It's an image.

The nice thing about the human body is how quickly it can repair from the damages of smoking cigarettes. Lung tissue regenerates all the time. If it is has been more than a year since you smoked, all things considered, the damage from that has been repaired. In fact, I have heard people who quit smoking and they had to re-learn their breath management for singing since they now had more lung capacity.

Yeah, I know, "rock and roll" is a lifestyle. And there have been a few that truly lived it. And they were dead before their time. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bon Scott, John Bonham, Kevin Dubrow, John Entwhistle, Robin Crosby.

Some who have paid the price and still live, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Keith Richards, Grace Slick.

Some who are every bit of rock and roll without the abuse. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Ted Nugent. He is in his 60's and can still do "Cat Scratch Fever." Axl Rose, I invite anyone to listen to "IRS" from the album Chinese Democracy.

Some who still struggle. Sebastian Bach (he loves his wine.) Zack Wylde (beer, at the very least.) John Mellencamp still smokes cigarettes.

Eric Clapton quit cigarettes back in the 90's. Folk singer Arlo Guthrie does not allow smoking during his performances.

Per the words of Mark Baxter. You have to live as a singer, regardless of what your day job is. Thanos teaches languages. But, Thanos is a singer who teaches for a regular paycheck. I am a singer who manages the office for an electrical company to pay the bills. Robet Lunte is a singer who teaches singing to others. You are the instrument. A guitar player immediately puts his guitar away or at least keeps it in a special stand and cleaned off and would not think of pouring alcohol on it or dragging it through the mud. Horn players polish and clean the instrument every day. The only time a violin is actually taken out of its case is to be played. But the voice is exposed to all the elements of the environment, 24/7.

Does that mean sacrificing the "party" materials in order to have a voice? You betcha.

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All right, So I got to put the party on the shelf for some time. I can live with that.

About the humidifier, Joanna mentioned, which one to buy if you got no money, and should it be turned on all night, or just before I go to sleep?

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 10 months later...

Hi all,

Jens, I would be really interested in hearing, a year on, whether things improved for you. I found this forum because I have experienced the exact same symptoms, even though my background is different to yours. I am female, a fair bit older than you and definately not transitioning voice-wise from puberty. I also am fortunate enough to sing in smoke free environments, am not a smoker, and haven't even had alcohol for about 6 weeks (never a heavy drinker anyway). Surprisingly (ha) I do sing primarily rock though (not so much the lifestyle though in my case!)

About 5 weeks ago I started getting the burning throat sensation just as you describe. I have had periods of up to 11 days of rest from singing (talking a little harder to acheive) and only 7 days ago was put on medication for reflux. It's taken away the chest pains I was experiencing but not the throat burn as yet. I am also unsure of the whole diagnosis as never had heartburn but appreciate the other commenters noting that this is not necessarily a symptom. The thing that I really relate to on your post though is the effect of being able to 'sing through it' (frustratingly, I've had people say that I'm sounding better than ever before) and not feeling sore during, or the next day, but from 2 days later the burning is insane and lasts and lasts. Only honey and salt water gargle helps at all.

I also appreciate Joanna's advice on rest (am trying, but like you, how hard is it to not sing at all!!!! It's the thing that makes me happy...) and will definately follow up on the massage/ relaxation angle.

I would be really interested in hearing whether you ever got to a resolution though. A bit depressing to think that I have always tried to do the 'right things' re smoking and drinking and still ended up at the same place. I hope you were able to find a solution that worked for you.


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  • 5 years later...


Just my two cents here.  I've experienced burning in my throat for about a year which was only a problem on days when I used my voice often.  (I'm not working a present so this is mainly volunteering work where I visit shut-ins and stay and talk for 1-2 hours.  It also occurred when I was renting out two properties at different times and I had to talk a lot on the phone with prospective tenants.  I have had GERD for 20 years.  Well controlled on Aciphex (like Nexium) it's a PPI (Proton Pump inhibitor) that can stop a good deal of acid in the stomach from moving into the esophagus  I often take the meds only 2-3 xs a week but the last year I could tell that it wasn't well controlled.  In the interim, I started eating only one meal a day (supplementing breakfast with a protein shake).  I believe that contributed to a sudden intense burning not only with talking but EVERYDAY.  My Gastroenterology put me on several medications.  The aciphex (PPI) can take  a month or so to work effectively so she also put me on prescription strengh Pepcid (20 mg twice a day) in the hopes of getting the acid down.  When the burning continued after 10 days, it was my family doctor who suggested Carafate.  (It's been around for 40 years and not well used today).  It works VERY WELL to relieve the burning - but it's kind of a pain in that you must wait an hour after taking it to eat or take other medications.  You can't take it for two hours if you've eaten SO you have to really coordinate things....a little price to pay for burning relief.  

GERD:  My Gastroenterology said that ANYONE who is having throat burning should see an ENT (I did but she only saw mild inflammation on Vocal cords most likely to the acid reflux.  BY THE WAY - I had NO other symptoms which was odd because I always have either bad heartburn or dysphagia (where food feels like it gets stuck).  THESE are classic signs of GERD (a more damaging degree of "acid reflux".  The ENT has me going to Voice Therapy twice a week which I started today.  I've had NO BURNING for last 5 days (again Carafate really helps with this) but four hours after speech therapy (lots of talking and voice exercises the burning was intense!

THE IMPORTANT PART AND THE REASON I"M SHARING:  If you have burning and your ENT doesn't find anything causing it, you should see a GASTROENTEROLOGIST.  You should agree to go onto acid reducing medications BUT ONLY for a short time (10-12 days).  You should absolutely get relief by 10-12 days and if the burning continues it's CRITICAL that you have what's called PH Monitoring (the BRAVO test is most recommended).  This test which is well tolerated by most involves having a tiny fiber optic tubing inserted in your nose and into your throat.  Sounds weird BUT if you can tolerate the ENT doing a quick 30 second scope to see Vocal Cords, you can tolerate this.  I get it done without numbing agent because it's so quick and absolutely painless.  If you need to be numb - go for it!!!!  The PH Monitoring will tell your Gastro IF the reflux is CAUSED by 1) Acid Refux  2) Non Acid Reflix or 3) Bile.  These are ALL treated differently so if the test shows NO ACID REFLUX you can immediately come off all the acid reducing medications.  I have a friend who had this done and discovered his "REFLUX" is caused by a non acidic fluid.  This is more tricky to treat and takes a little more time and patience.  He didn't know about Carafate so he's planning to try it to see if he gets some relief.  Also BILE reflux (often with folks who've had gallbladder removed or are very heavy) is another type of reflux and it also tricky to treat but you really NEED TO KNOW what's refluxing up into your esophagus and throat.  IF IT"S ACID - lots of things to try but you REALLY should go on a GERD diet (stay away from alcohol and chocoloate and big heavy meals 3-5 hours before bedtime.  

There's also ANOTHER problem that can mimic GERD symptoms  and if your PH Monitoring doesn't show reflux you may have a "stomach motility" issue.  That's unfortunately another test BUT well worth it to get to the root of your problem.  It's treated with Baclofen a medication works very well for spacisity (patients with MS etc) use it.  For some reason it has worked will with folks whose stomachs are not moving the food out quickly enough.  

TO recap:  If the ENT does not find the "REASON" for your throat burning don't just ASSUME (Or let your doctor) ASSUME it's acid reflux.  My doctor immediately ordered the PH Monitoring after 10 days of several GERD meds not resolving the problem.  Having it next week AND cannot wait although I'm a little anxious about wearing a small cord up my nose for 24 hours...None the less I've made the decision to get through this as I know the answer may soon follow!!!!  

Sorry for the length but I'm reading SO many forums where people suffer for years and their doctors NEVER suggest any of these tests!!!!  Good luck with getting your problems resolved. 





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  • 2 months later...

I'm another who's been experiencing the burning throat thing. 

However, I've been getting some relief and getting to sing more comfortably.

Hydration - not just drinking lots of water and avoiding coffee/tea/alcohol; but a more direct treatment of using Biotene (a dry mouth treatment) several times a day along with a humidifier beside my bed.

Massage - a yawn accompanied by massaging the throat above the larynx.

I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks but my throat is handling singing and talking in loud places way better.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further to this - allergies have also been a source of a sore throat as post nasal drip can irritate the back of the mouth/top of the throat area. And of course, anti-histamines can dry out your throat - so I've been trying natural anti-histamines from the health food store.


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  • 4 years later...

Hey Everyone!

Loved reading up on this and would love updates on how everyone is doing? 
I am a cruise ship singer and I’ve had acid reflux since I was a little girl. I’ve been on Prilosec for years and years which, trust me I know, it’s good. But that’s what the doctor ordered. 

I have this strange burning sensation in my upper chest and throat only when I talk and sing. It’s very recent and super puzzling. It’s been affecting my voice. Going to see the ENT on Jan 6. but I’m pretty damn nervous to see if it’s my vocal cords or acid or both or MORE!! I have had horrible acid reflux before, I’ve had it burn my throat before…but this is just a different sensation and very strange. Only happens when I speak/sing. 

Opinions? Advice? Really worried that I’m going to be let go from my contract seeing as we leave in two weeks. Nothing much I can do but wait for the scope from the ENT. Just got off of 5 days of steroids which makes acid reflux worse. Was just trying to get the swelling of my vocal cords down if that is in fact it. 

Would love to talk to anyone about this :) 

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