Approximately 6 years ago my life was changed forever with the onset of a rare neurological condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia (also known as, “SD”). People with SD have the sensation of being strangled when trying to speak; each word is a tremendous effort to produce. The disorder comes in three varieties; abductor, adductor and mixed spasmodic dysphonia, the affected person experiences either breathiness or tightness when trying to speak. The exact cause of SD remains unknown to medical researchers but there are some commonalities that sufferers report during the time of onset; such as the presence of some type of infection and a great deal of personal or professional stress. Some refer to the onset of this disorder as the day their voice broke.
One of the most commonly used treatments to provide relief from the physical effects of SD is Botox (Botulinum Toxin) injected into the larynx. Using Botox in this condition stops the spasms from occurring and in many cases allows the person to speak in a clear and fluent voice. The effects of the injections are only temporary. So, the procedure needs to be repeated every few months and duration differs from person to person.
As you may imagine, the injections are very stressful to endure and in many cases range from uncomfortable to painful. The anxiety associated with getting the injections is even more difficult to deal with than the actual pain. The thought of having long needles going through your neck then through the esophageal cartilage and then into the delicate folds of the larynx would make the toughest person feel uneasy. Many people report taking a mild anti-anxiety medication to achieve a reduction in their anxiety level… making it easier to cope with the injection
Not being comfortable with taking an anti-anxiety medication or benzodiazepine, I will always opt for the natural alternative. Possible side effects of taking anti-anxiety medication include but are not limited to sleepiness, problems with inhalation and a swelling of the lips and closing of the throat. The natural alternative of choice in this case is yoga and meditation which has no known negative side-affects.
Practicing Vinyasa Flow Yoga, which synchronizes breath to movement, has taught me to control the level of anxiety that is experienced during these injections. The otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) that treats me for this condition is fully aware and understanding of my thoughts and ideas as they relate to the use of medical intervention. He is respectful of my point of view and allows me the time to focus my breathing and mentally recreate the same level of relaxation as achieved during savasana or corpse pose in my weekly yoga practice. By mentally recreating the same feeling of total relaxation, security, warmth and full body awareness… the pain and discomfort of the injections is not even perceived. Therefore, a memory of the discomfort is not created which also means there is no recall of the experience. When recalling the experience of being injected the sensation of complete relaxation replaces an otherwise unpleasant experience.
Using yoga to control anxiety is not a quick fix. Attending one yoga class will not provide you with the needed tools and understanding to achieve the needed level of mind control to override pain and discomfort. Only the ongoing study and practice of yoga will bring a greater awareness of self and surroundings that will gradually provide the tools needed to override the pain.
It has since been determined that the writer of this article has Muscle Tension Dysphonia but until properly diagnosed was seeking treatment for SD.