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laryngeal spasm

what causes laryngeal spasm and is there any medication to prevent an attack.

This discussion is related to Laryngeal Muscle Tension/breathing distress.
163 Responses
Avatar universal
do you get larynx spasms? what do they feel like. I have been strange tightening sensations in this area and not sure what is going on. My doc just thinks it is allergies but I think it is a spasm or some sort?
Avatar universal
i have been getting larynx spasms for a long time and dread one coming on. It is not triggered by anything in particular and starts by the feeling of a pin pricking inside my throat at the right hand side , always my right side. Within 3 to 5 seconds i am unable to take a breath in, either through my mouth or nose. I try not to panic, which is difficult, and get outdoors as fast as i can where after a minute or two i manage to get a little air into my lungs. For at least 5 min it is like trying to suck air in through a straw which is very distressing.  It takes a good 10min or so for the air to flow freely down . My doc is arranging for an ent doc to have a look.
I have had larynx spasms for many years and can remember the first time I had one at age 14.  Mine are caused by choking on liquids--of which I have a phobia about.  The spasms increased after I was working for a start-up company and was under a lot of stress.  When I have a spasm, I cannot breath in or out and think I am going to die.  I have trained my husband to try to calm me down when I have an episode.  I have recently found that only taking a "minimal" amount of water when swallowing pills helps.  I already take a low dose of Effexor and should probably go for cognitive therapy.
Avatar universal
I too have exactly what you have described.  I recently went to an ENT who told me my larynx was having spasms and he told me the spasm would pass and not to panic which is extemely difficult as you know.  Mine seems to be triggered by cold symptoms (thats when it's worse) Have you gone to an ENT yet and if so what did he say it was??  Just the thought of having one of them literally makes me shake with fear.
I had swallowing studies (barium, etc.) that didn't show anything physcially wrong.  If I catch myself "as soon as" I feel like I am going to choke, I can calm myself down, try NOT to breath, and avoid an episode; that is not always successful.  I read that cognitive therapy might be successful to treat this anxiety.  I am going to find a therapist to work on my anxiety, and ask which medication might be better than the Effexor (75 mg./day) that I am taking.  Does anyone have suggestions regarding medication?  The swallowing issue is the only behavioral problem I have with anxiety; otherwise I am fine.  
Avatar universal
I too have been diagnosed with laryngeal spasm, an attack literally closing my airway until passing out. I have seen resp. specialist who said there is nothing they can do to treat it, only prevent triggering the spasm, such as not getting a cold there for not coughing which seemd to trigger the spasm. This is not very practical solution considering I have 3 young children who bring home colds. If anyone has any treatments that work in an emergency please let me know
Avatar universal
I had a spasm this week and can't stop thinking about it. I coughed, went to take a breath and could not. It felt like I might die and I wonder if this is ever fatal or do you just pass out or finally relax enough to get some air. Also, does having one mean that others are more likley?
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Avatar universal

About 3 years ago I had suffered 3 Laryngospasms within 18 months,
the last 2 within 6 weeks of each other, (when I was referred to a specialist.)

The specialist said my Laryngospasms could be caused by my goitre and the
only advice given was to try to breath in slowly during attacks.
After this I soon found on the internet that Calcium deficiency can case muscle spasms
so I asked my Doctor to check my Calcium level.      It was OK.
But as a precaution I started to take Calcium anyway....taking just 1/2 of RDA.

Very fortunately for me,  the supplement  bought from a health shop, in addition to Vit D,
contained Magnesium, Copper, Boron and Zinc too.
I had no further attacks for nearly 3 years........  
But after about 2 1/2 years I began to purchase most of my supplement in supermarkets.  
This only contained Calcium and Vit D.

Approx. 4 months after using mostly the supermarket supplement I had 3 very slight
short attacks within about a 4 week period.        Foolishly, I ignored them.
5 days after that third attack I had a full Laryngospasm on 15/1/09.

Immediately I returned to taking my original supplement containing Magnesium etc.
I have not suffered any further Laryngospasms.

As you will know, Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and has been used to prevent
Laryngospams in children during operations on the throat.
(reference on my site and also to an American Laryngospasm specialist and video.)

The RDA for Magnesium for a man over 35 is 420 mg.  
The foods containing the most Magnesium are not those eaten every day,
or at all by many !  
So for me, to absorb 420mg per day could be quite a task, especially as I drink a great
deal of tea as the sole Calcium in milk can deplete the body's Magnesium.

I now believe that my voice box muscles are relaxed just by simply taking 1/2 RDA of
Magnesium.  Magnesium deficiency  can cause muscle spasms and cramp and
although I may not be deficient, that little extra is relaxing my vocal chords and so
prevents attacks.   The copper, boron or zinc too my assist in this.

Of course, this may not work for others and the taking this supplement which
appears to cure my Laryngospasms could be the placebo effect.   But I think not.

Albert Noble.

Avatar universal
I have had many spasms over the past few months and have learned to take control of it by not panicking and very slowly breathing in through my nose and out through my nose.
The trick is not to panic, which i have learned to do.
I have had my thyroid and three para thyroid removed and it has taken 5 years to stabilise so i would not like to upset the balance by trying any other supplements.
However, the connection between the two is interesting.
732437 tn?1296908539
I to suffer from laryngospasms - and blame a rough tonsillectomy when I was 17 (33 years ago). I've done my own research and done trial and error to manage this as ENT's and emergncy Dr's have been little help. What helps me is an obsessive avoidance of colds and flus, acid reflux meds in case I have silent reflux, pilocarpine med as needed (saliva stimulator), and salt water gargling at night. I do many of the other suggestions seen here - constant throat lubrication with cough drops and gum, trying not to panic (good luck with that one), and I never yell or talk for long periods of time. I am excited to try Albert's suggestion of adding magnesium. To anyone suffering from this I feel for you! I also wear a medic alert bracelet as I guess a tracheotomy would be neded in an emergency. Good luck to all of you.
Avatar universal
If you wish to try what I did bear in mind that the supplement I take also contains boron/copper/zinc as well as Magnesium and VitD.  As I said, when I went to thesupermarkets supplement it only had Calcium/VitD and my spasms returned, so it must be the other Minerals that do the trick for me. As Magnesium is a muscle relaxant it is probably that.   I was very dissapointed that neither my doctor or specialist suggested taking supplements.....I had to cure myself and I am now writing to them about this.
I shall also write to the BMA too as I wonder how many others might just be helped by taking 1/2 RDA of the supplements I take?  But I daresay they will completely ignore my letter....doctors only seem to want to drug you or cut you! :-)

Avatar universal
Sorry, my previous letter should have been addressed to Judith23, not Makita.
Avatar universal
  I have suffered with laryngospasms since I had a surgery and implant of a medical device in which the surgeon had to go into my neck and throat. They are terrifying. I found a very unorthodox way of treating them. It is not preventative, but it is a rescue. I hope it will work if you ever need it. It is very odd. I literally push my head as far into my freezer as I can. I try to get the blower to blow very cold air into my face. I told my ENT about it and he said it made sense to him because of the type of spasm it is. I don't know why it works, but it has worked every time. I grant you, it is still terrifying and each time I wonder if this will be the time it does not work. I think the air may relieve some swelling but I don't know because it happens pretty fast - though not immediately. You have hold on for a few frightening seconds.
  As weird as my treatment sounds, the way it came about it even weirder. I was having a particularly long and terrifying laryngospasm. I tried putting a straw down my throat, because my doc told my to try to breathe like I was breathing through a straw, a little at a time. But there was no air - nothing. I threw the straw and picked up the phone and hit a speed dial number (a friend), but I had no air so I could make no sound. I banged the phone on the counter, but she didn't get it. I realized that I was near losing consciousness and things were going kindof dark. I am not a holy roller or even a religious person, though I try to practice in my own way. Out of nowhere I prayed in my head, "God, please save me." And I felt like I "heard" someone say "Put your head in the freezer." With what seemed like the last ounce of consciousness in me I ran and threw my head in the freezer (laughing to myself that people would find me dead that way), and within second I began to pull in small amounts of air. I tried to stay calm and keep it small (that's important) and just keep pulling in small amounts; they got bigger until I could breath normally. Tears were streaming down my face from feeling suffocated, but it worked.
   The problem is, finding a freezer when it happens out of the house.
I hope this helps someone, and I will be trying the magnesium.
My heart goes out to all of you.
Avatar universal
On my website is a link to a doctor's technique to stop Laryngospasm immediately wthout using a fridge!
Your doctor could show you how to do this.

Avatar universal
I started having these after a bought of Bronchitis. After many trips to ENT and Urgent Care I went to UCLA Med Center. The throat specialist there gave me Botox. It worked. However, I have diminished voice and trouble swallowing water. But it's a lot better than choking. I have to go back in three months to see if I need more injections. Hopefully the underlying problem will be gone and I won't need more. But there's no guarantee.

Hope this helps.
Avatar universal
I have been assured by several doctors that if I pass out because of a laryngospasm, the larynx will relax and I will breathe. It's also important to relax, breathe from the diaphram and find a good landing spot if I do pass out!
Avatar universal
I too suffer these horrible episodes.  I had thyroid cancer and ever since I have been plauged by these very violent spasms.  I have been all over the country seeing specialist since my cancer was so reare there are only six known survivors wolrd wide at this time.  One Dr. told me to try and breath through your nose, didn't make much sense since I have no airway at all but it has something to do with the mechanism of action and just trying this has eased it a little, not much but a little.  I know we are always suppose to wake up if we pass out but getting to that point is terrifying.  Had one the other night, for me always precipitated by taking a sip of something.  Please keep me informed inf anyone come up with a good solution.  Staying calm has never worked for me.
Avatar universal
I am so glad to have found these message boards and hear all of your experiences. I just recently started experiencing them, and am having 1-3 waking me up in the middle of the night, these are much worse than the small ones that are happening every day. I am trying to set up an appointment with an ENT specialist, but unfortunately realize I need to load myself up with information, becuase it seems like as a patient, we really have to advocate for ourselves to get help with these awful things.

Albert, that article seems awesome, but I don't understand it, I need an anatomy textbook to understand where and what i'm supposed to be doing. Could you help explain?

I love the freezer idea, I'm going to try that if this happens again (let's just cross our fingers that it never happens to any of us ever again). And your story is incredible in terms of how you discovered the method. Anything that works, calming ourselves, and breathing slowly through the nose...

Best to all of you
732437 tn?1296908539
As a follow up to my note here dated Feb 18, 2009, I just figured out 2 more things that help prevent my throat spasms - sleeping sitting up and wearing a surgical mask. The sitting up might be related to silent GERD that I still don't think I have that as I have no other symptoms. The mask humidifies the air - dry air like when the heating system is on or a cold, therefore dry, day are much harder on my throat - and by wearing the mask the immediate air breathed in is humidified by my own breath.

I am taking Albert's suggestion of a daily calcium supplement with magnesium, boron, zinc, and copper; and take a reflux med daily in case I have silent reflux.

Cold and flu season, and colder weather, is starting here in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I have had a cold/flu for 7 days now - the biggest trigger for my spasms. So the fear of spasms intensifies. This week I have had several small episodes where I was able to stop a complete air way block, and 2 worse ones. That is not bad for me after a cold - but I'm not over being sick yet and I'm always the worst at the end

Just thought I'd pass along the 2 suggestions for you all in case they help you to.

Avatar universal
I have had only a handful of spasms in the last 12 years, but each time the psychological recovery is horrible.  It takes me weeks to feel relaxed.  I have found that during the spasm if I tip my chin up, it forces the airway open. I had a spasm yesterday while I was getting ready for church and I was home with just my boys (husband had gone earlier).  I have such anxiety about it now, that I don't know which is worse... going through the spasm or worrying about having another and feeling like my throat will close anytime. Thanks for all the ideas that everyone has contributed...
Avatar universal
I had thyroid cancer surgery in April of this year and have one paralyzed vocal cord. I just had my first laryngospasm today while awake. I now realize I have been having them in the middle of the night, but not as bad. I was cleaning my closet today lifting clothes onto the bed and I coughed. (Starting with sinus congestion too.) I have never experienced anything so scary. My first instinct was to stick my head out the window. It barely helped but I kept telling myself to calm down and breathe. I was so afraid that I was going to die in my messy bedroom, for all to see, as well as the front page of the newspaper stating "Speech Pathologist dies of laryngospasm." How Ironic would that be. I'm already taking alot from my fellow speech friends for having a paralyzed cord as they know I love to talk. My doctor asked me if I have to talk alot at work, while working with handicapped/autistic students!! I'm starting the magnesium tonight.
Avatar universal
Hi everyone i have been experiencing these bouts for about 12 years now on and off, I didn't know what they were until i googled the symptoms and came accross your comments. I am now convinced this is what i have and will be suggesting this to my doctor. I experience the worst one a few days ago and have been terrified of it happening again. I constantly have a dry throat and chew chewing gum all the time to make siliva. My doctor sent me to an asthma specialist when i told him my symptoms but that didn't help. I am constantly coughing. When i have a bad bout it starts suddenly with a sort of intense tickly in my throat followed by chokeing and being unable to get a breath. Sometimes the tickle is worse than other times and the one a few days ago was the worse i've ever had Thought i was going to die. I was very supprised to hear there isn't a cure for it. But at least i'm a bit more aware of what it might be that i have I will also be trying the vitamins albert suggested. I am so pleased i found this site. Things are starting to make sense now THANK YOU ALL Hope something is found to help soon  Good Luck everyone!!!
Avatar universal
I too started with laryngospasms 3 years ago.  Although this has only happened 4 times the experence is horrifying.  Two times that this has happened have been at work.  The first thing everyone wants to do is the heimlich maneover.  Because I can't speak it is difficult to tell them not to do this, which makes me panic even more.  Any suggestions?
Avatar universal
Myself, my one sister, my brother, and my mother have all suffered with this for as long as I can remember.  I thought everyone did, until the day someone outside our family saw it happen to me.

This is the first time I have searched the web for any information on this.  I saw an ENT Dr. many years ago and he said if I pass out, things should relax and I would live.  Hard to relax when you can't breath.

Many things can trigger a spasm for me, but worst of all is a cold which I have now.  I have had three attacks within 24 hr, hence the reason I am afraid to go to bed right now and it is 2a.m.  My body is worn out.  

One thing I have found that actually prevents many spasms from going "full blown" is taking a small amount of Buckley's cough medicine.  It seems to open up the airways faster and gives me a small peace of mind that I have help.(does take your breath away for a few seconds, but usually when I feel the tickle, lose of breath is not far away. ) It doesn't work as well for the ones triggered by a cold, but it is great for the other times when it "just happens."  Buckley's has saved me hundreds of times.  I take it everywhere I go.  Running, skiing, everywhere.  Keep it close by and take a sm amount of it as soon as you feel the first indication that one is on it's way.  99% of the time, the tickle will go away.  It has saved me many times driving the car etc.

I  will also try  the suggestions I've read in these posts.  
Avatar universal
I am so glad to have found this site!  My first spasm occurred at my work. Luckily, I work in a doctor's office. I don't know what triggered it, but first I coughed, like when a bit of saliva or water goes down the wrong way, and suddenly my throat closed up, and even working really hard to breathe, all I could manage was tiny bits of air, and I sounded like a donkey with a severe asthma attack. My doctor came out of his office, and asked if I was choking, as he moved behind me for the Heimlich maneuver. I motioned him away, and he (and the rest of the office by now) just watched me struggle. I did hear him tell everyone that I wasn't choking, and that it would pass, and spoke soothingly to me. It felt like it went on forever, but was only around a minute. That was long enough for me to start seeing the edges of my vision start to close in, and I felt faint.  And as everyone here seems to have heard, once you faint, the spasm (and the rest of you) relaxes. I didn't pass out, but I guess getting close was enough for the spasm to pass. It's happened another 3 or 4 times in the last year, but much milder than the first. Post nasal drip from colds or allergies seems to do it. I hate getting sick now, not only because it makes another attack more likely, but because the first attack freaked me out so bad I now have intermittent anxiety. I just had a small lanrygospasm attack today, fortunately/unfortunately in front of my daughter, and I felt the anxiety kicking in afterwards. I'm not good at distracting myself convincingly, so I had to take 1/2 an Ativan.  I am about to go to my medicine cabinet and will take the vitamins suggested above. Thank you for that, Albert, and I will have my doctor explain to me how to do the technique on the website you suggested. I'll also keep the chin-lift in mind. I was sent to ENT for a scope, and all the vocal chords etc, are fine. I also had a barium swallow to check for reflux, and that showed a bit of reflux in a lying down position, which might explain the nighttime episodes. I might just be starting reflux medicine as well. The worst part is the anxiety these episodes started. Feeling mortal is not very relaxing...Sigh...
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