Can Speech Therapy Resolve Swallowing Problems?

Imagine not being able to eat without pain.

Consider the fact that thousands of Americans are barely able to swallow.

In certain cases, swallowing can even be impossible.

The medical term for difficulty swallowing is dysphagia, and working with a speech therapy clinic can help resolve these issues, enabling you to enjoy eating normally again.

Anyone at any age can have dysphagia, but it’s most common in older adults. Therefore, some residents at East Carolina Rehab and Wellness have this problem. This is one reason we provide certified speech therapists to help our residents return to the joy of eating without pain.

What Are the Signs of Dysphagia?

Everyone occasionally has some difficulty swallowing. This may come from eating too fast or not chewing thoroughly. It happens from time to time.

However, it’s when this becomes a continual problem that you or your loved one may benefit from speech therapy.

In addition to difficulty swallowing, some of the signs of dysphagia are:

  • Painful swallowing
  • Feeling like food is stuck in the throat
  • Drooling
  • Feeling like food is behind your breastbone
  • Hoarseness
  • Spitting up food
  • Repeated heartburn
  • Losing weight unexpectedly
  • Coughing or gagging

What Causes Dysphagia?

Anyone can have a swallowing disorder, but it is more common in older adults. It often happens when someone is affected by a disease that affects the nervous system. This includes Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy.

Other disorders can contribute to difficulty swallowing. These include:

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Stroke
  • Other issues with the esophagus/throat
  • Head injuries
  • Problems or injuries to the spinal cord
  • Head and neck cancers

In some instances, dysphagia can be effectively treated with medicines while other cases may require surgery.

What Is a Speech Therapist?

Speech therapists work closely with our residents in order to help them communicate effectively. This is important when someone has problems with both verbal and nonverbal communication.

Speech therapists work closely with those who have had a stroke or other disorder that has impaired their speech.

These therapists also help those who have swallowing problems. In many cases, they can “train” the muscles used in the throat and mouth to enable them to swallow without problems.

What Training Does a Speech Therapist Have?

Typically, speech language pathologists have a master’s degree and are licensed by the state. They may also have national certification from the Speech Language Therapy Association of America.

How Can Speech Therapy Resolve Swallowing Problems?

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of working with a speech therapy clinic is that they can tailor the treatment approach to your individual situation.

Speech therapists can show you methods to help. This can involve changing your diet or holding your head and neck in a certain way.

In other cases, speech therapy involves teaching your muscles how to effectively swallow. Often, this involves exercises. Most of these help with strengthening the tongue.

Swallowing is actually a complicated process. It involves coordination among several muscle groups used to push food down your throat and into the stomach. Speech therapy exercises help increase control over these muscles.

Examples of Swallowing Exercises

There is no one swallowing exercise that works for everybody. However, during speech therapy, you may be asked to complete some of the following:

Take a straw and small pieces of paper. Place the straw in your mouth and suck on it, trying to pick up the pieces of paper. Keep sucking on the straw to hold the paper in place. Then, place the pieces in a cup.

Continue this exercise until you’re able to successfully place a certain number of pieces into the cup.

Another exercise involves dry swallowing (meaning you’re only swallowing your saliva). When you swallow, try to squeeze all muscles that are used in swallowing as tightly as possible. Eventually, repeating this action will strengthen these muscles.

Access to These Wonderful Services Is an Advantage of Living at East Carolina Rehab and Wellness

Trouble swallowing can have a devastating effect on the quality of life for so many individuals. That’s why we only employ compassionate, friendly staff members who are experts in their field. Together, we work with you or your loved one’s entire health care team to provide the quality services you need and deserve.

Interested in learning more about rehabilitation at East Carolina Rehab and Wellness in Greenville, NC? Contact us for more information.