Countless singers swear by steroids because of their seemingly magical power to bring a voice back when it is hoarse or completely gone. But do steroids actually help singers or could they be harmful?
First, what are steroids?
Steroids are an anti-inflammatory drug. They can come in the form of pills, injections, sprays, etc. They are used in a wide variety of products from allergy medications to skin creams to pain killers. Steroids are commonly prescribed by doctors to touring singers to treat a hoarse voice.
The Voice and Inflammation
Like athletes, singer’s rely on the health of their body for optimal performance. In the same way that leg muscles can become sore and swollen for a kickboxer, the muscles that make up the voice box are also subject to swelling from misuse, overuse, lifestyle habits, and the list goes on. Singers, unlike athletes, however, usually don’t think of the voice as being a physical instrument requiring care, because it is an invisible instrument.
Yet most people are very aware of how the voice can have good days and bad days. Inflammation of the vocal cords is the usual culprit for bad singing days. Often, inflamed vocal cords are swollen vocal cords. When the vocal cords are swollen, they are not as free to vibrate and stretch, which impairs voice function. This is where steroids come in.
Treating a Hoarse Voice
Steroids treat a symptom and not the cause. While they do reduce inflammation, they aren’t correcting the cause for the inflammation. This is where their use becomes dangerous. If a singer is hoarse because of straining and overuse, then steroids will just repair the voice enough for the singer to continue abusing their voice. This can result in a very damaged voice.
You may be wondering how a singer can treat vocal inflammation if not by steroids. The best way is by taking preventative actions so that the voice never gets overly inflamed. This means sleeping well, staying hydrated, eating healthily, warming up, eliminating strain, building vocal strength and endurance through regular practice, and respecting your vocal limitations. Remember, your voice is produced by muscles that require care!
All that being said, steroids are often part of an efficient recovery plan for a hurt voice. However, their use needs to be paired with vocal rest, coaching, and voice therapy to address the cause of the inflammation.
So, do steroids help singers?
No, steroids do not help address the cause of inflammation. And they will not stop a downward spiral while on tour or in a demanding performance schedule. Repetitive strain is cumulative and your voice will progressively get worse. However, steroids will reduce inflammation temporarily and this may enable the voice to get through a performance, albeit at a reduced vocal quality.
Benny Meza is a Master Associate at Brett Manning Studios in Nashville, TN. He’s taught over 7,000 vocal lessons and has worked with clients from Warner Music, RCA, Universal Music Group, and many others.
Book a Skype or in-person lesson with Benny today!