Vocal Cord Therapy: Purpose, Voice Disorders & Vocal Exercises

An image of a speech icon of a voice talking.

Vocal cord therapy is not just for professional speakers and singers. It is beneficial for everyone, regardless of whether or not they use their voice for work. It can help restore and strengthen your voice and improve its health, function, quality, and stamina. In essence, voice therapy is like physical therapy for your voice.

Join us as we discuss the purpose of vocal cord therapy, explore specific voice disorders that can benefit from voice therapy, and discuss vocal exercises to aid in this process.



Key Takeaways

  • Vocal cord therapy can help improve voice quality and alleviate voice problems caused by various conditions, including vocal cord nodules, polyps, and paralysis.
  • The therapy typically involves exercises and techniques to strengthen and coordinate the muscles of the vocal cords and make adjustments to breathing and posture.
  • While vocal cord therapy can be effective, it may take time and consistent effort to see significant improvement. Working closely with a qualified speech-language pathologist or voice specialist is essential to develop a personalized treatment plan and monitor progress.

What is vocal cord therapy?

Voice therapy, also known as vocal cord therapy, is a form of treatment that involves a combination of exercises and techniques to improve the biomechanics of voice production. It is primarily used to promote the healing of injuries on your vocal folds (also known as vocal cords) or to enable your vocal folds to vibrate naturally without being subjected to excessive pressure.

When is voice therapy necessary?

Voice therapy can effectively treat most types of voice disorders (dysphonia).

It is estimated that nearly 18 million (1) Americans face voice-related issues, but unfortunately, many do not seek medical help. Voice therapy benefits children and adults, and your healthcare provider may suggest it to address a range of voice disorders and related concerns.

What are voice disorders?

Voice disorders can affect how you speak by causing a change in your voice’s quality, pitch, or loudness. These disorders occur in the voice box, also known as the larynx, which contains your vocal cords and the necessary muscles for speaking, breathing, and swallowing.

The change in your voice can be consistent or inconsistent, and it may sound strained, husky, weak, or even disappear completely, leaving you with a whisper.

What are the types of voice disorders?

The three primary types of voice disorders are functional, organic, and psychogenic.

  • Functional voice disorders are caused by speaking excessively or forcefully, often due to stress or poor breathing technique. Some people may not even know they use too much tension when speaking. Others may speak in a register that is not optimal for their voice.
  • Physical changes in the larynx cause organic voice disorders. This can include vocal nodules, paralysis of the vocal cords (which can occur after thyroid surgery), and other conditions like smoking, inflammation, stroke, or laryngeal cancer.
  • Psychogenic voice disorders occur due to a distressing event, persistent stress, or a mental illness such as depression. The voice may sometimes become hoarse, cracked, or even completely silent.

An image of a woman with tape over her mouth symbolizing her need for vocal cord therapy.

What are the most common types of voice disorders?

Common voice disorders include the following:

Muscle tension dysphonia: This disorder is caused by putting excess stress on your vocal cords, causing muscle tightness in this area.

Vocal cord lesions: Vocal cord lesions are caused by the formation of noncancerous growths on the vocal cords, which changes your voice. These growths can be in the form of nodules, polyps, or cysts. People who use their voice frequently, such as singers, teachers, and attorneys, are more likely to develop vocal cord lesions.

Laryngitis. This condition occurs when your voice box (larynx) becomes irritated and swollen. Common causes include allergies and respiratory infections; symptoms typically improve once the underlying condition clears.

Spasmodic dysphonia/vocal tremor: In spasmodic dysphonia, the muscles of the vocal cords spasm or shake, causing intermittent breaks in speech. This is a neurological disorder.

Vocal cord paralysis. Vocal cord paralysis is when one or both vocal folds have limited or no movement and are not under your control. The condition can be caused by scarring or nerve damage. Some symptoms include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and shortness of breath (dyspnea).

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD): When suffering from this disorder, the vocal cords shut instead of opening correctly. This can lead to breathing difficulties during exercise or irritation of the throat.

An image of a woman open mouth breathing.

What professional provides vocal cord therapy sessions?

If you are experiencing any issues with your voice, the first doctor you should see is a laryngologist. This medical professional specializes in treating conditions that affect the voice box, including vocal cords. In cases where surgery is necessary, the laryngologist will perform the procedure on the larynx.

If the problem requires voice therapy, the laryngologist may refer you to a voice therapist. There are different types of voice therapists who can provide therapy depending on the patient’s specific needs. Professionals include:

  • Speech-language pathologist (therapist)
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Voice Coach

What does a voice therapist do?

Voice therapy is a process that can help individuals improve their voice quality and overcome various speech-related issues. With the help of a voice therapist, you can learn exercises and techniques to strengthen your vocal cords, increase your vocal range, and improve your overall voice control. These exercises may involve breathing exercises, vocal warm-ups, and other techniques to help you speak more clearly and effectively.

Working with a voice therapist gives you the confidence to speak clearly and expressively in both personal and professional settings. So, a voice therapist can be a valuable resource if you want to improve your voice quality and overcome any speech-related issues.

What are some common voice therapy exercises?

During voice therapy, your healthcare provider will teach you exercises that can help improve your vocal function. These exercises may vary depending on the cause of your vocal problem. Examples of exercises include:

  • Breathing exercises that can help you control your diaphragm muscles, which in turn help you breathe and speak correctly.
  • Tension release exercises that can help decrease the tension in your throat. These exercises may include stretching and massage.
  • Semi-occluded vocal tract sounds, such as straw phonation, lip trills, and humming, which can help promote healthy vocal cord vibration.
  • Voice-building exercises that can help strengthen your vocal cords and improve breath support. These exercises are beneficial for people with weak vocal cords.

Below are examples of voice therapy exercises your voice therapist may guide you in performing.

Muscle Tension Dysphonia

Tension-Releasing Massage


  1. To perform this exercise (2), start by keeping your chin neutral or slightly down, and then massage both sides of the front of your neck above the Adam’s apple.
  2. Move higher on both sides under the chin below the jaw, and pinch the bottom of your tongue. Massage the area right below the floor of your mouth.
  3. Anchor your index finger on your chin and place your thumb under your chin to massage in a triangle rotation underneath the front area of your tongue.

This exercise will help loosen your throat.

Remember to swallow before and after each exercise; you may repeat this exercise for 1 minute, 1-5 times a day.

Humming/Buzzing Voice Therapy Techniques

Vocal warm-ups are important to maintain vocal health, but some of them can put a strain on the vocal cords. Humming and buzzing exercises are great vocal warm-ups that cause minimal strain on the vocal cords. These exercises can help clear the throat, strengthen the vocal cords, and improve vocal range and control.

To perform humming and buzzing exercises, follow these steps:

1. Begin by humming a low note and gradually increasing the pitch.

2. Change to buzzing by producing a “zzz” sound and slowly increasing the pitch.

3. Repeat the process several times.

During these exercises, relax your mouth, keep your jaw loose, and take deep breaths when necessary. Avoid straining your voice.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Breathing with your diaphragm can help you relax and improve your singing and speaking voice. To perform diaphragmatic breathing, follow these steps:

  1. Sit with an upright posture and relaxed upper body.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other below your rib cage.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose while focusing on expanding your stomach and pushing it against your hand.
  4. Exhale through pursed lips, engaging your stomach muscles to expel the breath.

Practicing this technique for 5-10 minutes daily can reinforce the diaphragm and vocal cords and support your voice. It’s a great exercise to help improve your overall voice.

Mendelson Maneuver (Larynx Lifting Exercise)

Exercises such as the Mendelson Maneuver can help improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles in your voice box, enhancing your ability to swallow.

The Mendelson Maneuver is a simple exercise that can strengthen your voice box and improve your swallowing reflex. The exercise involves swallowing your saliva, which causes your Adam’s apple (the solid area about midway down the front of your neck that protrudes from your larynx) to move up and back down as the saliva enters the space just behind your mouth.

To perform the exercise, try to keep your Adam’s apple elevated at its highest point for at least two seconds each time you swallow. If you are unsure how to do this, you can use your fingers to help at first. Males may find this exercise easier, as their Adam’s apple is usually more prominent than females.

Perform this exercise multiple times daily until you can regulate your swallowing muscles independently without needing your hands.

An image of a doctor feeling a patient's throat.

Lip Trills Exercise

The lip trill is an effective vocal exercise that involves vibrating your lips together while making sound. This exercise helps to alleviate tension in your lips, improve your breath control, reduce the pressure on your vocal cords, and expand your vocal range.

Follow these easy steps to start your lip trill (3)l:

1. Begin by wetting or licking your lips.

2. Close your lips together.

3. Relax your lips and cheeks while keeping them closed.

4. Purse your lips, forming a shape similar to fish lips.

5. Start making a sound such as ‘brrrr’.

6. Keep the sound or trill going for as long as possible.

7. Experiment with the pitch of your sound by going up and down.


If you have a voice disorder or have undergone vocal cord surgery, voice therapy can be a helpful solution to recover your voice. A voice therapist can guide you through a series of exercises that will strengthen and heal your vocal cords. This process can help you regain the strength in your voice. Additionally, voice therapy can be used as a preventive measure to keep your vocal cords healthy.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What are medical conditions that may require vocal cord therapy sessions?

Medical conditions that may need voice or speech therapy include:

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

What’s the difference between vocal cord therapy and speech therapy?

Speech therapy addresses a variety of issues beyond vocal cord problems, including speech difficulties that may co-occur with voice issues.

Examples include stuttering, impaired social communication skills as occurs with autism spectrum disorder, and cognitive communication disorders in which thought processes cause the speech impediment.

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1- https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22339-voice-therapy

2- https://dysphonia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Voice-Therapy-Exercises.pdf

3- https://startsingingtoday.com/lip-trill-exercise/#:~:text=The%20Lip%20Trill%3A%20Step-by-Step%201%20Wet%2Flick%20your%20lips.,the%20pitch%20of%20your%20sound%20%28up%20and%20down%29.


SANE MD Chief Medical Director at SANESolution

Dr. Matthew Olesiak, MD, is the Chief Medical Director at SANESolution, a renowned wellness technology company dedicated to providing evidence-based solutions for optimal living. Dr. Olesiak earned his medical degree from the prestigious Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, Poland, where he developed a strong foundation in medicine.