Patients that suffer from dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing may benefit from a form of treatment called swallowing therapy. Working with a speech pathologist, the patient will learn special exercises to improve the functioning of muscles associated with swallowing. Depending on the individual patient, swallowing therapy may also include a change in diet.
Therapy for Swallowing Disorders
During the swallowing therapy sessions, a speech therapist may use different methods involving the lips, jaw and tongue to strengthen the muscles of the mouth. Special exercises for engaging the swallowing muscles and stimulating the nerves that trigger the swallow reflex may be used. Food may be used with the exercises for different textures, temperatures and swallowing ability. Patients may also be taught simple ways to place food in the mouth or position the body and head to help swallowing occur successfully.
Therapy for Feeding Disorders
Patients with swallowing disorders may also have difficulty feeding themselves. An occupational therapist or a speech therapist can assist the patient and family in feeding techniques. The goal of the therapy and different techniques is to make the patient as independent as possible. A nutritional expert can determine the amount of food or liquid necessary to sustain an individual and whether supplements are necessary.
Swallowing and feeding therapy can be effective forms of treatment for many swallowing disorders.