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Dysphagia Therapy


Updated June 10, 2014

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Years ago, dysphagia therapy mostly focused on instructing patients on how to swallow safely and not necessarily on the improvement of their swallowing. For instance, if you were a stroke patient who couldn't manipulate food in your mouth due to tongue dysfunction, you were taught to use compensatory maneuvers such as tilting your head or body position while attempting to swallow.

Patients were instructed to ingest thicker food materials, which take longer to be transferred from the front to the back of the mouth. Although these techniques are very helpful in making swallowing a little easier for people with dysphagia, and are still used regularly, newer approaches to dysphagia therapy follow a comprehensive plan of care that also includes different types of exercises which have been shown in small studies to improve swallowing function.

If you or a loved one have difficulty swallowing, these exercises may help you regain the ability.

Tongue Exercises

I know. You never thought there was a way (or a need for that matter) to exercise your tongue. But the news is that tongue exercises are actually a very effective way to improve swallowing ability. This article contains several exercises you can easily practice in the privacy of your own home.

Lip Exercises

The lips are very important for the movement of food around the mouth, as well as its subsequent swallowing. Specifically, the lips create a tight seal which prevents food and liquids from leaking out of the mouth during the initiation of the swallowing reflex.

Jaw Exercises

Stroke can affect the areas of the brain that control the muscles of chewing. This causes difficulty generating a mass of food that is soft and small enough to be swallowed. Indirectly, this leads to dysphagia. This is why for many people, jaw exercises can dramatically improve the ability to swallow.

Swallowing Exercises

When dysphagia results from stroke or other causes, the best way to regain swallowing ability is by performing actual swallowing exercises.

More on dysphagia after stroke


Bronwyn Jones; Normal and Abnormal Swallowing, Imaging in Diagnosis and Therapy; 2002 Second Edition; Springer

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