Throat Tension & Acid Reflux

Duo singers and doctor

Dear Dr. Jahn,

I have heard acid reflux can lead to throat tension. Is this true? How so?


Dear Kate,

This is my clinical observation: reflux is often associated with an elevated larynx, which is due to increased muscle tone. My explanation for the connection is this: when the mucous of the pharynx is inflamed by reflux, it irritates the underlying muscles. If the tone of the muscles attached to the pharynx and larynx is increased, the net effect is that the larynx moves up (there are many more elevators of the larynx than depressors). I think it is a reflex irritation, not a direct effect of the gastric juice on the muscles themselves.

The problem of course is, once you learn to phonate with higher muscle tension (whatever the cause), this may become your norm, and even if the reflux is completely controlled, you need to actively unlearn this method of phonation.

-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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