View Full Version : Overcoming VCD

December 29th, 2010, 01:08 PM
I saw my EMT doc yesterday. She is of the opinion that my post nasal drip is inflaming the bottom portion of my vocal cords and could be the reason they are shutting down during swimming. She has never treated this condition but gave me medication to dry up the post nasal drip. Mean time. I found a pool side breathing exercise from "Coach Shev Gul" that seems to be working in that I have more than doubled my pull laps with out stopping and gasping for air. Check out this article "Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique Practice for Improved Swimming Performance". Again, any one out there with the same problem? I still can not do more than 75 yrds but am improving.

January 18th, 2011, 02:12 PM
Good workout today. I'm now able to do 500mts without stopping and gasping for air and have increased my kick/pull laps. Not very fast yet but improving. I was diagnosed with Vocal Cord Disorder due to post nasal drip that affected my swimming only. Nose sprays at night and morning has helped the post nasal drip and diaphramatic breathing has helped the swimming. Thanks to all who have responded to this problem.

March 19th, 2011, 04:48 PM
Still trying to find anyone who has experienced Vocal Cord Motion Disorder while swimming and has found a treatment that works.

March 19th, 2011, 07:31 PM
If you find a speech pathologist with a specific interest in VCD, that is your best bet. Most people have good success with speech therapy tailored towards VCD.

March 20th, 2011, 03:57 PM
Thanks for the reply: I am seeing another ENT specialist who used to be a competitive swimmer for a second opinion. I've been on nose sprays and acid reflex meds. for almost 2 months now and no help so far.

April 6th, 2011, 04:27 PM
After almost two months of nose sprays for post nasal drip and meds. for acid reflex I still cannot swim (arms and legs) more than 75 meters without gasping for air. Yesterday, I saw another Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist who is also in a Masters Swim program. He thinks the problem as related to swimming is the pressure exerted on the core is causing a acid reflex to close my vocal cords. I go in next week for a CAT scan of the larynx and esophagus. Again, any one out there with a similar problem?

April 6th, 2011, 05:23 PM
After almost two months of nose sprays for post nasal drip and meds. for acid reflex I still cannot swim (arms and legs) more than 75 meters without gasping for air. Yesterday, I saw another Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist who is also in a Masters Swim program. He thinks the problem as related to swimming is the pressure exerted on the core is causing a acid reflex to close my vocal cords. I go in next week for a CAT scan of the larynx and esophagus. Again, any one out there with a similar problem?Are you saying you have acid reflux? If so, you can get Prilosec or other meds that will zap it.

A few years ago I had reflux issues that had actually caused my voice to change. I wasn't swimming at the time, but the inflammation due to the acid reflux had contricted the area around my vocal cords and put pressure on them, which made my voice higher. I actually have some recordings of where I am taking video and commentating, and I'm wishing I hadn't :) I eventually saw an ENT and had a camera stuck up my nose and down my windpipe, which identified the pressure on the vocal cords. It was the worst. Proceedure. Ever.

I'm not an ENT, or even a doctor, but I would think if the inflammation is significant if could physically constrict the airway, and not allow sufficient air into your lungs. Neutralizing the acid reflux may solve the problem.

April 8th, 2011, 02:05 PM
When I had acid reflux, I had breathing problems. I was told by a fellow swimmer, not a md, that the reflux affected the vega nerve which caused the breathing problem.
I hope medication can stop the reflux. If not, a surgical solution is possible. I have never regretted the surgery.

April 8th, 2011, 07:30 PM
This could be a solution to my problem but I am not ready for surgery yet. In addition to my anti reflex meds I am trying a little (two tablespoons/ 8oz water) vinegar/water Tell me more about the vega nerve surgery.

April 9th, 2011, 03:48 PM
If your problem is acid -- then its hard to imagine how vinegar (also an acid) could help. I believe the surgery that's being referred to is a fundoplication which wraps part of the stomach around the esophagus to reduce reflux -- its doesn't touch the vagus nerve.

A lot, perhaps most, VCD that I see is not related to reflux. In a lot of those cases we have had good success with speech therapy.

May 4th, 2011, 05:58 PM
Just got back results from a CAT scan of my throat/lungs/esophagus. All results are "unremarkable". I hope to see someone from the Hoag Voice and Swallowing center next week. After almost 3 months of nasal sprays for post nasal drip and med's for acid reflex I still can not swim freestyle for more than 75 meters without gasping for air. Again, any one out there with the same problem?

May 4th, 2011, 08:11 PM
Wow, what timing. Came across this post on a search.

My daughter was diagnosed three weeks ago with the same thing, VCD. Two different nasal sprays, acid reflux med, and inhaler( just in case there was some asthma going on). No relief for her either. Still lots of mucus, cannot hold her breath, and coughing during practice. It is really impacting her swimming. Doc said she was a classic case with the nasal drip contributing to the reflux. Happens on pool deck, less frequently at home.

Hope you find relief. We will be keeping an eye on your post.

May 5th, 2011, 04:47 PM
Thanks. Today, I had my best swimming day to date so far. I was able to go (slow) 300 meters without stopping.

May 8th, 2011, 08:41 AM
Good improvement. Focus on your exhale. Try to get all the old air out, so your next breath is full. And keep your breathing moderately slow.

May 11th, 2011, 03:08 PM
Good ocean swim today. Made almost 500 yards without stopping and gasping for air. Still wheezing but better. Pool swim still sucks. I guess the chlorine is more of a VCD trigger then thought. I saw my ENT today and she wants me to continue the nasal sprays and anti reflex meds for who knows how long. Again, any one out there with a similar problem?

May 11th, 2011, 05:59 PM
I merged six separate threads on this topic into this one thread. Please continue to use this single thread for this topic, rather than starting new threads. Your thread will be "bumped" up to the top of the list any time something new is posted within the thread. :bump:

June 19th, 2011, 10:43 AM
I'm now into the 5th month of nose sprays and Prevacid for my Paradoxical Vocal Cord Disorder which prevents me from swimming more than 100 meters with out stopping and gasping/wheezing. I can still do pulls and kicks without problem. I seem to be able to do almost 200 yards in my ocean swims but still have to stop. Again, anyone out there who can help?
I'm stopping the nose sprays because its not working and it seems to irritate the vocal cords.

old dog
June 20th, 2011, 08:15 PM
Ed...do you drink beer or alcohol?

June 21st, 2011, 01:57 PM
Yes, occasional beer.

June 26th, 2011, 12:00 AM
Some progress yesterday. The ENT who is also a former Master Swimmer has contacted UCLA head of otolaryngology and he has agreed to a consult. Hope he has a "magic" bullet. Still can not swim more than 100 yards with out stopping and gasping for air. I'm now taking 2 Previceds a day and have stopped the nose sprays.

June 26th, 2011, 01:13 PM

Have you had anyone, such as a swim coach or a fellow Masters swimmer, watch you swim? I wonder whether you're doing something with your stroke (such as breathing too early, breathing too late, etc.) that is causing part of the problem.

Anna Lea

September 1st, 2011, 04:39 PM
Still can not swim more than 250 yards in the ocean nor 100 yards in the pool with out stopping and gasping for air. The stridor sound is very audible and is gone within 45 sec. The diagnosis is Paradoxical Vocal Chord Disorder. I have been taking nasal spray for post nasal drip and acid reflex meds since Feb. with no improvement. I continue to work out but it is discouraging. All the doc's have given up on me. Again, any one out there with a similar problem or any suggestions.

September 1st, 2011, 04:42 PM
Yes, both a coach and a fellow master swimmer. I'm not new to swimming having competed through out high school and college. I am 70 and continue 1 miles swims both in the pool and ocean here in Southern California.

September 1st, 2011, 05:11 PM
Find a speech pathologist with a special interest in VCD -- the success rate is very high when you find the right practitioner. Not all speech pathologists are skilled or interested in this area.

If you can't find someone in your area and are willing to travel than consider contacting the folks at National Jewish..they pretty much wrote the book on the subject

vcd treatment program (http://www.nationaljewish.org/programs/directory/vocal-cord-dysfunction/)

October 2nd, 2011, 08:19 PM
I'm now into a year and 2 months of this Vocal Cord Disorder. My pulmonoligist and Ear/Nose/Throat docs have given up. I'm getting better and can ocean swim 1000yards without stopping but still wheeze while swimming and can not "push" speed. Pool is worse. Chlorine is a trigger for VCD. Again, any one out there with a similar disorder. Research shows 3 - 15% of swimmers with exercise induced breathing problems have this disorder.

October 11th, 2011, 12:39 PM

It sounds like you still don't have your vocal cords under reasonable control. I don't have issues with my vocal cords, but my daughter who is 14 does. It started a little over a year ago when she had moved into the "excellence" squad in her swim team. It was as if she was suffocating from all the excellence in that group... (She is very ambitious and wants to perform 150% in everything she does, straight As etc., the typical profile for someone with VCD). I was pretty sure she had VCD after a long night on the computer when the doctors were getting really aggressive about treating her "asthma" with steroids and the like, when she herself felt her problem wasn't like asthma (she had had temporary EIA episodes before). She saw an ENT specialist who referred her to a speech pathologist who taught her breathing/relaxation techniques that helped her to not feel totally helpless when VCD struck in the pool. That fixed a lot of the problem, but not all of it. She then saw a hypnotherapist, and after two or three sessions with him she pretty much had it completely under control. That does not mean it is gone - it still bothers her in certain situations (breatstroke kicking with snorkel, hard butterfly, uphill sprinting when running), but for the most part, it is under control. She finds it harder to control when she is stressed out over other issues. But for the most part, the speech pathologist and hypnotherapist have helped her control it. This is NOT per se something that you take a pill for - you really have to work at it yourself. Things like acid reflux can play a role, but mostly they just seem to contributing factors. I am amazed how well my daughter has done despite this predicament, I had really thought her swimming days might be over. Good luck to you!

November 10th, 2011, 07:48 PM
Well, here it is in Nov. and the ocean is 58% and I am back to pool swimming. Since my last post all doc's have given up on solving my Vocal Cord Disorder so I'm on my own. Research show's 3 - 15% of swimmers with this disorder. Still, anyone out there with a similar problem? I can go farther in the ocean with out gasping for air then the pool so chlorine is a major trigger.
So, I will continue my 80 lap workout with mostly pulls and kicks.

November 10th, 2011, 07:52 PM
Thanks Swimmom. My research shows that there is a possibility that this condition might disappear over a period of time. I'm 71 so I hope its soon.

December 7th, 2011, 10:48 PM
A few years back, I was able to swim 100 laps straight, but my distance started to decline and for the last seven months, all I could do is 50 mtrs before becoming short of breath. I went through what was called a million dollar medical workup - a variety of scans, echocardio, stress tests, largynoscopy.... Everything was normal, except for my VO2 max stress test and largynoscopy.
Last month I was diagnosed with PVCD and will begin speech therapy this week. I understand that this is very common in female athletes, but it also affects men. A variety of things could cause your vocal cords to close when inhaling - mine apparently is due to GERD and anxiety. My therapy is supposed to give me the tools to open up my vocal cords, and I was told, I should be able to swim the distance again.
I hope the therapy works because this has been an incredibly frustrating experience, especially since the majority of doctors I saw had never heard of PVCD, and I was told more than once that this was all in my head. Have you had speech therapy yet?

Concerned lady
January 15th, 2012, 05:05 AM
My husband and I each had VCD (he in 1998, and I in 2000). We each were diagnosed at Nat'l Jewish, in Denver, CO. Very nice and kind folks working at Nat'l Jewish, which is a respiratory center that is expert at diagnosing VCD, asthma, etc. (Nat'l Jewish's "LUNG LINE" nurses are at 1-800-222-LUNG/5864)

After we worked intensively on finding & removing our VCD causes, triggers, etc., and after we stopped having VCD attacks (almost entirely) for a year, I made a website about VCD (in early 2001). The title is: "Can't Breathe? Suspect Vocal Cord Dysfunction!". Here's a link to the home-page:
http://cantbreathesuspectvcd.com (http://cantbreathesuspectvcd.com/)

I agree: VCD is "not" in the head! It's in the neck (larynx/voice box). Sometimes, there are structures near the vocal cords that "close up" (adduct), rather than the vocal cords closing up. Sometimes, several structures (including or not including vocal cords) can be closing up when they shouldn't. Usually, this "Upper Airway Dysfunction" (coined by docs at Nat'l Jewish) is treated the same way that VCD/Vocal Cord Dysfunction is:

--speech therapy (taught by a VCD-savvy Speech Pathologist/Therapist)
--look for, find & remove (or treat) underlying causes (see my website for food for thought, at http://cantbreathesuspectvcd.com )

Chlorine (in pools, and in bleach) is a known VCD trigger, as EdC discovered. I hope that pools will not be treated with chlorine someday, but instead, maybe with UltraViolet light. However, venting would still be needed, because U-V light creates ozone, which is a respiratory toxin & irritant (VCD trigger)!

Reflux is also a major VCD trigger. However, reflux meds (acid blockers) have bad side effects that include nerve damage (peripheral neuropathies, etc.), osteoporosis, and promotion of various intestinal infections (including Clostridium difficile/C. diff., Helicobacter pylori/H. pylori, etc.).

For some non-drug ways to combat VCD-causing reflux, see webpages 5 & 10, etc., in my website. But, don't suddenly stop taking acid blockers. That can cause "rebound" extra acid production, making reflux even worse, which makes VCD worse.

For those who have asthma, consider learning Buteyko breathing methods, which are drug-free. Why? Because many asthma meds are VCD triggers! Don't suddenly stop the asthma meds, though. First, learn Buteyko, and if it helps, work with your asthma doc, to gradually wean down the VCD-promoting asthma meds (if safe in your situation). See info about Buteyko, in Reference #30, on webpage 9 of my website.

There's an amazingly large number of causes, triggers, aggravators, and pre-disposing conditions that can lead to VCD. Many of these can be found, removed, or gently treated (often without meds).

I've heard from MANY people (most with VCD) since 2001, and most were able to "cure" (or if not cure, control) their VCD. But, it takes some tedious searching, to uncover all or most of one's VCD causes, etc.

I'm not totally convinced that more women suffer with VCD than men. I think that men tend to suffer in silence, more than women, so that could be a factor skewing the data. However, there may be a hormonal component, that could cause more women to get VCD.

The key is to TEMPORARILY (like for a couple of weeks) look for, find, and then remove all (or most) of one's VCD causes. Search for causes in my website, for example. This means, stop swimming & stop strenuous exercises, for say 2 weeks, while doing an intensive search for all your other non-swimming VCD causes, triggers, etc.

This includes keeping a total diary/journal, daily, for, say a week, to help figure out what is causing what symptom. See Appendix F on webpage 10, for ideas about keeping the total diary/journal.

Webpage 4 has some VCD-stopping methods.

Webpage 5 (and other webpages) describes many causes of VCD.

Webpage 10 has "tips" about sinus problems, reflux, ergonomics problems, etc., all of which can promote getting VCD.

VCD is not well understood by most docs. But, some do know about it. Good luck to all!

Carol/Concerned lady (former RN/nurse, former VCD patient)

January 18th, 2012, 07:28 PM
Bad bout of diverticulosis in Dec/Jan. On the good side, the gastro doc suggested taking bigger doses of acid reflex meds. as a possible cure of VCD. Two swims this week with no stopping to gasp for air. Maybe on the way to a cure?

May 7th, 2012, 01:16 PM
Just back from colon resection surgery and am looking forward to resuming my swim workouts. Since the last post I have overcome my VCD problem with increased dose of anti reflex meds. I can now do my 2000 meter workout without stopping and gasping for air. I usually do 10 sets of 50 meter sprints at the end of workout(30 sec. pause) but so far I can not get past the fourth set without wheezing as if the vocal cords are still abducting.
Again, anyone out there with a similar problem?