Inferior turbinates: their job is to warm, filter, and shape the air you breathe. They're also what swell up and obstruct your nose when you catch a cold or have an environmental allergic reaction. They're what make your voice sound pinched and funky, stop you being able to smell and taste, force you to breathe through your mouth all of the time (which is very tiring and can mean poor sleep quality), and if you're a flute player, it is DOOM. Here's an example of varying turbinate obstruction. WARNING: look away now if you're squeamish....!
Due to environmental allergies slowly damaging my nose over the years, this condition continually worsened until I had constantly obstructive inferior turbinates. This somersaulted into chronic sinus infections and a lowered immune system, The timing couldn't have been worse as I was just emerging from the prestigious International Artist Diploma course at the Royal Northern College of Music and beginning to forge a career as a freelance flutist. Some of the ways it affected me as a flutist include decreased breath capacity, inability to breathe through my nose, loss of resonance in the sinus cavity resulting in smaller & less projected sound, pain around the ribcage when supporting, blocked ears, pressure headaches when playing, and tiring quickly.
It was established that I needed an operation to reduce the inferior turbinates, but I had been on a waiting list for over a year. It seemed that continuing a career as a flutist would be impossible without this intervention. I am very fortunate to have received support from Help Musicians UK to have the operation quicker than I would have had otherwise.
I'm delighted to report that the operation was a success and I am now back to playing professionally. Already, the difference is staggering and I'm enjoying experimenting with what I can do now on the flute (to be able to taste and smell is still a novelty, as well)!
Thanks for reading this blog post. Any questions about the operation, do get in touch.
photo credit: www.ohniww.org206
Figure 3: Examples of differences in turbinate size and the stages of turbinate hypertrophy.
Hi Victoria, glad you found this blog! Sorry you are experiencing sinus pressure when playing, it's just terrible so I totally sympathise. Sounds like you really need to get in to an ENT as soon as you can. Have you tried saltwater rinses and sprays? They can provide some temporary relief, and I also found peppermint tea nice sometimes. But really I needed the operation as my inferior turbinates were obstructive, so since the surgery I have felt really good. Are you in the US or UK? I think there may come a point where I need the operation again as they can become obstructive again. If I keep my atopic allergies and asthma well-managed then it's so much better. Good luck and keep me posted!
Kathryn, Thank you for your response. I do use the saline nasal rinses. It’s difficult though since my left nasal passage is 80% blocked. I live in the US. I’m waiting to hear from my primary dr whether their referral dept is making an appt with an ENT or if I should. So, the ball is rolling!
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