Explore 5 Swallowing Techniques to Alleviate Dysphagia Symptoms

Dysphagia, a condition characterized by difficulties in swallowing food, can be managed with targeted exercises. Here are some techniques to help alleviate symptoms of this disorder.

Explore 5 Swallowing Techniques to Alleviate Dysphagia Symptoms

Consuming food is an innate process, often performed effortlessly. Swallowing, typically seamless, is seldom pondered upon by most individuals. Nevertheless, this seemingly simple act belies a complexity akin to various bodily functions susceptible to disorders. Difficulty in swallowing, known as dysphagia, arises when nerve or muscle responses deviate from their intended actions. Consequently, this condition may result in discomfort during the ingestion of food and saliva. Below are some exercises tailored for dysphagia, offering methods to alleviate the swallowing process, which you can practice within the comfort of your home.

5 Exercises to Alleviate Difficulty in Swallowing (Dysphagia)

Below are several exercises endorsed by medical professionals for managing dysphagia, suitable for home practice:

1. Shaker Exercise

The Shaker exercise, despite its name, is a straightforward regimen designed to bolster muscles and enhance swallowing capabilities. Targeting the muscles and tissues in the neck crucial to the swallowing process, it aims to alleviate dysphagia-related discomfort and promote overall well-being.

Shaker Exercise

To perform the Shaker exercise:

  • Lie flat on the floor with your head fixed in position.
  • Keep your hands beside your body.
  • Lift your head to gaze at your toes.
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds without shaking and without raising your shoulders.
  • Return to the initial position and repeat this exercise 6 times a day. Gradually increase the lift of your head with subsequent repetitions.

2. The Hyoid Lift Manoeuvre

This exercise is unconventional but effective for improving swallowing and muscle strength. Place a small piece of paper over a blanket or towel. Hold a straw in your mouth and try to suck the paper back to its tip, keeping it attached by continuing to suck the straw. Gradually move the paper towards a bowl or container where you can drop it. Repeat this exercise with 5-10 pieces of paper daily to enhance dysphagia condition.

3. The Mendelsohn Manoeuvre

This exercise aims to improve the swallowing reflex. Swallow your saliva multiple times, keeping your Adam’s apple elevated for a specific period. This manoeuvre reduces dysphagia pain and enhances control over the swallowing process. Typically, you bring saliva to the mouth from just behind the swallowing area, moving it upward and then downward.

 The Mendelsohn Manoeuvre

In this exercise, you must regulate a specific cycle. Begin by taking a deep breath, then direct your attention to your throat. As you attempt to draw saliva into your mouth, maintain elevation of the Adam’s apple for 3-5 seconds. Support the elevated position with your fingers. Slowly release the hold, allowing saliva to flow naturally. Repeat this process until you can sustain the elevated position of the Adam’s apple without external assistance.

4. Effortful Swallow

Effortful swallow is a technique where you intentionally apply effort while swallowing, which may seem unconventional but proves beneficial in treating dysphagia. This exercise aims to enhance the coordination of muscles involved in swallowing by focusing on their contraction and relaxation.

To perform this exercise:

  • Sit comfortably in an upright position.
  • Visualize a food item you desire to eat.
  • As you imagine the food entering your mouth, consciously contract the muscles involved in swallowing.
  • Maintain this contraction for 5-10 seconds without releasing tension.
  • Follow by swallowing your saliva without any liquid, repeating this process approximately 10 times a day to strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing.
Supraglottic Swallow

5. Supraglottic Swallow

Supraglottic swallow is another exercise designed to improve control over the swallowing process. While typically a food-based exercise, it can initially be practiced without food to acclimate to the process and avoid potential choking hazards, especially for individuals with dysphagia.

To practice this exercise:

  • Begin by taking a deep breath and relaxing.
  • Take another deep breath and hold it.
  • While holding your breath, swallow your saliva.
  • After swallowing, cough to clear any remaining food or saliva residue from your throat, allowing it to pass down your esophagus.
  • Once comfortable with the exercise, you can incorporate food into the process. Additionally, when taking a deep breath, exert more pressure on your throat muscles by bearing down while swallowing, adding an extra challenge to the exercise.