Physical Therapy Exercises For Dysphagia Patients

Health & Medical Blog

Dysphagia refers to swallowing difficulties that may be associated with stroke and other neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Head trauma, tumors, spinal cord disorders, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis may also cause dysphagia.

If you have dysphagia, you may notice that food gets stuck in your throat or that you are unable to swallow at all. It is essential to seek treatment for swallowing problems because untreated dysphagia can heighten the risk of choking. Here are some exercise interventions that may be part of your physical therapy treatment plan. 

The Shaker Maneuver

While most people do not think about swallowing when they are eating or drinking, those with dysphagia have to make a conscious effort in order to activate their swallowing reflexes. Neurological diseases and strokes can diminish that reflex, and because of this, swallowing training exercises need to be implemented.

For this exercise, which is known as the Shaker Maneuver, the physical therapist will ask you to lie on your back. Next, while keeping both of your shoulders flat on the treatment table, lift your head up and look at your feet. The exercise will help strengthen your swallowing muscles. However, you may need to repeat it multiple times over the course of physical therapy treatment sessions before you notice an improvement in your swallowing ability. 

The Chin Tuck Maneuver

Another effective swallowing exercise is the chin tuck. For this maneuver, your physical therapist will ask you to take a small bite of food or a sip of a beverage and then tuck your chin close to your chest. While your chin is still in the tucked position, the physical therapist will then as you to swallow the food or drink.

The chin tuck helps prevent choking because helps reposition the posterior (back) part of your tongue to the back of the throat. Positioning the tongue to the back part of your throat helps to gently ease your food and liquid down the throat into the esophagus.

The chin tuck maneuver may also help prevent food from getting stuck in your pharynx. The physical therapist may work in conjunction with the speech therapist to develop an effective dysphagia treatment plan suited to your individual needs and degree of dysphagia.

If you have dysphagia, talk to your physician about recommending a physical therapist who specializes in swallowing problems. When dysphagia is managed early on, it may be less likely to progress, and in some cases, people may even regain the complete ability to swallow without any residual neurological effects.

For more information on physical therapy treatment, contact a professional near you.


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