Doc: Sharp Pain Singing High Notes – Help!

Doctor with an actor

Hi Dr. Jahn,

A couple weeks ago, I was singing a high note and felt some sharp pain on the left side of my throat area right below my Adam’s apple that lasted a couple seconds and disappeared. I went on strict voice rest for a week and during that week, my throat/larynx did not hurt when I talked normally with anyone. After a week, I sang for 5 minutes or so, and my throat felt tight. Since then, if I talk too much (like 10-15 minutes worth), I get a sharp pain on the left side in the same exact place where I had my initial pain. I was looking up various vocal cord pathologies and saw that almost all of them cause painless hoarseness, but my voice has not been hoarse.

Thank you!


Dear Sam,

Based on your description of how this pain came on and where it was located, is most likely that you have strained the left cricothyroid muscle. This is the muscle that contracts as you go up into head voice. It is not clear why you should feel the discomfort on one side only, but the fact that it occurred again when you were singing in a high voice certainly confirms that there is some strain in this area.

I would suggest three things. 

1. Rest your voice for a week.

2. Take some anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, and then…

3. Gradually begin vocalizing to stretch the muscle. I would recommend soft and slow sirens going up and down across the mix.

If the problem continues, you should see a laryngologist.

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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