Speech Therapy

Dysphagia Therapy and Exercise Science

People who suffer from dysphagia have problems with swallowing which can have a considerable impact on their speech. Dr. Lori Burkhead, a speech language pathologist (SLP) and an assistant professor at the medical College, Georgia believes that combining dysphagia therapy with exercise science can actually help patients in overcoming their speech problems.

Dysphagia Therapy and Exercise Science: According to Dr.Burkhead, exercise concepts like strength training have a connection with her line of work-dealing with dysphagia patients. Based on evidence-based concepts of physical therapy and exercise science, she has designed an effective physiological rehab for dysphagia patients.

  • SLPs have many effective exercises at their disposal that can treat swallowing problems in patients. But as a matter of fact, these exercises are not practised or repeated enough number of times which is not at all helpful in improving the patient’s situation.
  • Most SLPs do not push patients harder keeping their discomfort in mind. For instance, the Mendelsohn swallowing technique is only practised a couple of times by patients. In fact, it needs higher amounts of practice in order to have any impact on the larynx.
  • Although there is no certain magic number of repetitions, it is important that patients learn to push themselves in order to treat their swallowing problems, thus improving their speech condition.
  • Also, many SLPS have to work within a cramped time-period as far as a patient is concerned thus, not allowing them to deliver 100 percent. Apart from dysphagia, they also have to look into aspects of communication, cognition, language and speech in the patient.

Intensive Exercise Therapy: Firstly, this therapy may not be apt for people with myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and for those who suffer from degenerative neuromuscular diseases. These people can worsen their existing condition and experience fatigue due to intensive exercises.

One of the most serious concerns in people who suffer from dysphagia is deconditioning which can weaken the laryngeal muscles.

  • One tool which can monitor this condition is an electromyograph (EMG). Using an EMG, one can assess the swallowing in a patient. Depending on the effort placed one can be asked to increase the effort gradually until a suitable pattern is achieved.
  • There are also other exercises like the Shaker exercise and the EMST (Expiratory Muscle Strength Training) for lingual strengthening.
  • Dr.Burkhead is also in the process of developing a new tongue-jaw exercise to improve swallowing intensity which would further help in strengthening the muscles.

Dysphagia therapy if combined with exercise science, can not only help with swallowing problems but also improve speech and language abilities considerably.

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