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What is Muscle Tension Dysphonia, and Can it be Treated? (A Crib Sheet)

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Muscle Tension Dysphonia, or MTD, is fairly common; in the vocal pathology sense of the word. A couple of new students told me they’ve been diagnosed with it, so I decided to spend some time reading up on the pathology.

Luckily, now you don’t have to, because what follows is a 500-word crib sheet. I also included a few helpful links at the end.

According to Crystal Barron, an integrative voice pro in Los Angeles, MTD is a "diagnosis of exclusion," which means that it is commonly used when no other reasons for vocal dysfunction can be identified. It's typically a presentation that is the result of two-or-more factors, and is often seen in singers with a "high vocal load," such as professional singers or classroom teachers.

In general…

  • MTD can happen to anyone.

  • It can happen as a result of another pathology, or it can be a free-standing pathology. .

  • It’s almost impossible to tell where it came from once someone has it.

  • It can be either MT – muscle tension – in which the muscles are over-contracting, or...

  • it can be D – dysphonia – in which the muscles lack coordination, leading to a mistiming of vocal fold vibrations.

  • Other conditions such as acid reflux or anxiety over MDT itself can exacerbate the symptoms.

Once a singer is warmed up, MTD