Speech and swallowing disorders vary from mild to severe cases that include everything from issues in speech up to cancer cases that significantly affect the throat and mouth. A relative amount of research has already been done and is still being done up to this day to find the most effective cure for these conditions. Experts have come up with exercises and remedies that would cure and relieve any discomfort brought about by these swallowing and speech disorders throughout the years. Let’s go ahead and learn some of them today.
What are some Swallowing and Speech Disorders?
Before we dive deep into some effective exercise and remedies, here’s a quick and comprehensive run-through of some of the most common swallowing and speech disorders that are conditions considered under the topic at hand.
- Dysphagia – is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. It is a pain or inability to swallow.
- Drooling – is typically caused by the presence of excess saliva inside the mouth.
- Hoarseness – termed medically as dysphonia, is the instance your voice gives out that raspy, strained, or breathy sound.
- Regurgitation – is when food from the esophagus or stomach gets spit out without the contribution of nausea or forceful contractions done by abdominal muscles.
- Unintentional or abrupt weight loss – can occur after a stressful event but can also be a symptom of a severe illness. Typically, weight loss is noticeable after stressful events like changing jobs, divorce, redundancy, or bereavement.
- Acid reflux or heartburn happens when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus and causes tissue irritation. Meanwhile, heartburn, or acid indigestion, is a sign of acid reflux, named aptly because the esophagus is situated just behind the heart – where the burning sensation is usually felt.
- Coughing or gagging
- Stuttering or other speech abnormalities
One known solution for most of these conditions is speech therapy. It is a type of therapy that trains and helps people with speech and language problems to speak more clearly. On the other hand, an effective remedy for swallowing issues is the tongue-strengthening exercise that allows people to swallow more effectively.
What is a Tongue-strengthening Exercise?
Tongue-strengthening exercises are known to help improve and alleviate discomfort felt from swallowing and speech disorders. With regular practice, these tongue exercises can help increase your tongue’s strength and mobility. In addition, this exercise may significantly improve your ability to swallow, especially when paired with other swallowing exercises.
Before swallowing, you chew your food to a size, shape, and consistency that you can swallow. While swallowing, this material passes through your mouth and into the pharynx. From there, chewed food then passes through the esophagus before it enters the stomach and the rest of the digestive system.
Movements like this require a series of coordinated actions from your muscles along this path. If something doesn’t work correctly, it can result in problems swallowing. Weakening of the muscles in these areas can make proper swallowing difficult. Swallowing exercises can increase strength and mobility and how you control these muscles. As time goes by, this may help you to swallow normally again.
Why do you need tongue-strengthening exercises?
If you have swallowing and speech disorders, you might want to consider practicing tongue-strengthening exercises. As part of most treatment plans, your doctor and speech-language pathologist, or SLP, may recommend swallowing exercises like tongue-strengthening exercises. This exercise may align with other treatments like dietary and eating position changes, prescriptions, or surgery. Over time, these exercises will help strengthen your swallowing muscles. Consequently, these exercises will eventually improve your swallowing and prevent instances of aspiration.
How do tongue-strengthening exercises work?
Your SLP will present specific recommended exercises for swallowing and speech disorders you should do while explaining the frequency of doing them. As an example, for this situation, your SLP may ask you to:
- Stick out your tongue as much as you can, as far as it can go. Place something flat like a spoon or tongue depressor on top of your tongue. Then, push against your tongue with the object, then move your tongue against the thing. Hold for a couple of seconds, then try repeating this step five (5) times.
- This time around put the object below your tongue instead.
- Then, extend your tongue as far as possible towards the corner of your mouth while pushing against the object. Hold it for a couple of seconds, then relax. Afterward, repeat the step now on the other side of your mouth. Do this whole process a total of five (5) times.
- Extend your tongue down the bumpy part of the top of your mouth right behind your teeth. Next, curl your tongue backward the back of your mouth as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat five (5) times.
Your SLP may recommend other exercises to improve the strength and range of motion at the base of your tongue to help you swallow through other means. For example, you may be requested to:
- Inhale while holding your breathing very tightly. You will bear down much like having a bowel movement. Maintain holding your breath while bearing down as you swallow. This procedure is called a super-supraglottic swallow. Repeat this step a few more times.
- Imagine gargling while holding your tongue back as far as possible. Repeat.
- Pretend yawning while you hold your tongue back as far as possible. Repeat.
- Finally, do a dry swallow, squeezing all swallowing muscles as tightly as you can. Imagine yourself swallowing a vitamin whole without water. Repeat a few more times.
In most instances, you will be doing tongue-strengthening exercise drills together with other swallowing exercises, such as exercises for strengthening your cheeks and lips. If this is the case, do these in the same order every time, so no practice is left undone. A planned series of exercises specifically targeting the source of your swallowing problem will be given by your healthcare team.
Swallowing and speech disorders may be a problem faced by most of us daily. However, the birth of tongue-strengthening exercises and speech therapies will surely help alleviate any inconvenience towards a more comfortable speaking and swallowing. Sooner or later, swallowing and speech disorders will become a thing of the past once recovery for these conditions becomes smooth-sailing.
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