Coaxing An Injured Pro Back To Singing

An injured professional vocalist. What an awful combination of words. What does it mean to someone whose life rests on singing to have that singing become impaired?

When an athlete or performer gets injured, much more is involved than just a loss of skills.  When you are the product and your body is responsible for being the deliverer of the product, and when that process gets interrupted, all of your life patterns are also in question.  It is not only frightening and demoralizing to lose your ability but it is embarrassing, as there can be an implication that somehow you have “done something wrong” to cause the injury or illness. Again, awful.

Sometimes the medical profession approaches a singer with injuries as a bunch of symptoms that need to be treated, not necessarily as a whole human being who needs to be supported. There is a big difference. If I was an MD, I could see you as a human being with many resources and see you taking advantage of a wide variety of methodologies to restore yourself to function. In viewing you this way, I might suggest a much broader range of therapies to try to help both you and your voice to return to normal function. If I  can only configure your vocal issues as symptoms that need to be treated, I might be more constrained in what I would recommend.

A qualified laryngologist might treat a serious vocal fold injury, whatever the cause, with an injection, surgery, or perhaps medication. A few MDs might suggest acupuncture or visualization as a support to healing, but that would be rare. If the doctor was not familiar with singers or singing (and some ENTs are not) there might be no consciousness whatsoever about how the chosen treatment could impact singing in a professional vocalist. Even though the treatment might be deemed to have been “successful” and the vocal fold might be restored to normal “speaking voice oriented” use it might still not work well for high level singing. The singer could be blamed for being “neurotic” instead of being supported for experiencing that, “yes, the speaking voice is better, but I still cannot sing”.

In coaxing an injured professional voice back to function any and all means that are reasonable are also appropriate. Massage by a qualified licensed massage therapist, acupuncture, yoga, visualization, energy healing, prayer, and all manner of speech and singing training aimed at normal function……all equally possible as pathways to improved function, IF, and it is a big IF, the person is open to all of them and has access to qualified, experienced experts in each field to facilitate those pathways efficiently. Additionally, psychological support, emotional and spiritual support are also very much recommended, so that the human aspects of being in this process is acknowledged and addressed with compassion, understanding and encouragement. For some, that might be “fight hard” to get things back to normal or as close as to normal as possible. For others, it might mean finding a way to sing at a lesser level of skill but one that is still professionally acceptable. Everyone has their own set of needs and goals.

Coaxing an injured voice back to a professional level of function is a big deal. It requires that the vocalist have the idea that recovery is possible, compromise would be acceptable as part of that possibility and that anything can happen. The vocalist would also need to accept that the process is slow, time-consuming, and demanding of both persistence and patience. It also requires the vocalist to have a network of friends and family to offer support throughout the process.

I have met many people in my life who wanted to sing but for various reasons gave up trying. Sometimes it was because they had a painful or difficult experience singing or being trained to sing. Sometimes it was because their own opinion of their ability was low and the comparison to others was daunting. Sometimes it was because their vocal folds were ill or injured and they were not able to recover their ability to sing through normal means. Sometimes it was because they became demoralized and did not have the wherewithall to continue trying to get back to singing.

Coaxing an injured professional back to some kind of singing is a very important service to offer. It takes a special teacher to do that. If you are someone who is struggling, I urge you not to give up. Look for what you need until you find it!


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