Throat pain and voice problems are symptoms of moderate to severe fibromyalgia that isn’t mentioned much during conversations about fibro.
When they’re compared to the widespread pain and fatigue that most fibro patients experience, perhaps it’s not thought of as a distressing symptom, yet losing my voice has been devastating for me. I wish fibro patients talked about this embarrassing and painful symptom more often.
I experience throat pain and a hoarse voice and sore throat with fibromyalgia almost constantly, but especially if I’m in a lot of pain and really exhausted. This symptom resulted in me losing a 20-year career as a classically trained vocalist. It has been devastating to lose the one thing I’ve cherished above all else since I first began singing at age 5 – my voice.
I’ve been singing on stages all my life. (My first performance on stage was at age 5 at Carembeck Public School.)
The day I knew that my voice was gone for good was at Taiwan’s Canada Day 150 Celebration in Taipei in 2017.
As an event organizer for that day, I had to be on stage greeting our special guests and the 8,000 attendees that showed up to party that day. We had live music going on all day, and the event culminated with a final performance from the Canadian All-Stars, a band that I was singing with that night. I got through our opening remarks and Oh Canada at 4:30pm. I led everyone in singing Canada’s national anthem and I was fine, but after finishing my welcome speech, I could feel that tell-tale tingling in my throat saying that it was thinking about not cooperating with me for the rest of the night.
As I stood on stage at 8pm that night looking out across a football field crammed full of people, I knew it was going to be one of my last performances.
I had no idea that the voice problems I was having at the time were due to fibromyalgia, and I didn’t tell anyone about it although I’m sure the squeaks and hoarse dips in my voice were becoming more apparent with each passing year.
Every time I had opened my mouth to sing that year, I had no idea what was going to come out. Was my natural alto belter voice going to come through for me, or was squeaky, hoarse Carrie going to emerge?
After rocking through several songs including Ironic by Alanis Morisette, I was halfway through Hallelujah when my voice started going. I hoped that no one could hear me and that my band mates could cover for me.
When I heard the performance afterwards, I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. It didn’t sound like me at all. And that is when I decided to retire from singing.
I did two more short performances after that big day and both times, I barely made it through. I did it, but lost my voice for days afterwards.
I was able to record a short video this past week in March 2021 that shows my voice going from ok to completely gone several times during the video. Check it out:
Naturally, when one loses something important to them, they tend to do some research and that’s when I started bringing it up in my fibromyalgia support groups. Other patients agreed with me and resource articles have been shared at the bottom of this post.
Here are some replies I received from Twitter about this question:
Yes. It took years to realise the connection. Swallowing becomes difficult as well.— Renuka Dhinakaran (@renudhinakaran) March 21, 2021
No pain, but my voice gets very hoarse when I’ve pushed myself past my limits— Angie Glaser (@winedarkme) March 21, 2021
Yep every single time I have thyroid issues which is auto immune and only recently linked the two— Lisa Warrior (@LisaSWarrior) March 21, 2021
I still do. Even without a flair up.— Camille White (@drcamillewhite) March 21, 2021
Vocal chord dysfunction might be worth looking into if you haven't already. What you're describing happens to me when my throat and neck muscles get overworked and tense up; if I don't rest, it gets worse. Speech therapy and PT helps a lot.— Joy Demorra 🌈🦇💖 (@JoyDemorra) March 27, 2021
Yes, but I have ME/CFS as well. It's a classic ME symptom. The name "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" is super misleading. It's not just fatigue, it's also flu like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and post exertional malaise.— Ellie Endo ♿🦓🎗️ (@Ellie_Endo) March 27, 2021
It may be worth getting checked, it has a high comorbidity.
If you’re new to my site, let me briefly explain that fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disease that causes long-lasting chronic (and often intractable pain) that affects many parts of the body.
Patients like me can experience tenderness that occurs when we’re touched or when we experience pressure on our muscles, joints, and skin. I also experience numbness, burning (paresthesia) and pins and needles in my limbs, especially my legs, feet, and upper arms.
Other symptoms include:
- unrelieved exhaustion and sleep problems
- migraine, headaches, back and neck pain,
- memory impairment and with brain fog
- depression, anxiety, and more
“People with fibromyalgia often report additional types of pain, including headaches, back and neck pain, sore throat, pain or clicking in the jaw (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), and stomach pain or digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.”Sep 18, 2020 Fibromyalgia: MedlinePlus Genetics
https://medlineplus.gov › Genetics › Genetic Conditions
Fibromyalgia can occur on its own or with other chronic pain conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and more
But what has happened to my voice is most surprising to me in terms of unexpected symptoms.
Fibromyalgia causes muscle pain and it’s not uncommon for my muscles to tighten and then stay that way for a while before I become conscious of my body tightening up. I have to work hard at getting my muscles to relax. When it happens in my face and head, it results in debilitating chronic migraine and tight throat muscles which cause my sinus cavity to back up with fluid.
This results in postnasal drip even though my nose is always dry. Instead, I have a hacking cough and a sore throat almost all the time.
I also experience ear problems because of this. My sinus problems and clogged itchy ears were major indicators that fibromyalgia and AS were wreaking havoc in the most unexpected of places.
Coping with Throat Pain with Fibromyalgia
Honestly, I have no tips for you except to take care of yourself and try not to strain your voice. I limit how much time I spend on the phone and how much talking I do. If my voice goes hoarse, the only thing that will help is rest.
As for me, who knows if this will be with me for life or if I’ll get the chance to sing again?
Additional reading and resources for throat pain with fibromyalgia:
“Fibromyalgia impairs perceived voice quality either in patient self evaluated or in clinician evaluated rating scales. Furthermore, the results confirm that Fibromyalgia caused short maximum phonation time and low voice intensity. This study is the first report with regards to voice evaluation in Fibromyalgia and in order to make a generalization further researches are needed.“VOICE DISORDER IN PATIENTS WITH FIBROMYALGIA
PUB MED ARTICLE AND RESEARCH