Aspiration Pneumonia occurs when food and fluids pass down the wrong way into the lungs and this material causes infection in the lungs. A number of aetiologies such as motor neurone disease, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease predispose a person to dysphagia and aspiration pneumonia.
Certain exercises and manoeuvres can be used to assist swallowing and prevent Dysphagia. A speech pathologist will assess the cause and type of Dysphagia. This may involve chewing, sensation, lip seal and the oral component of swallowing or the mechanism involved in initiating the swallow and airway protection to prevent the food or fluid going down the wrong way.
A comprehensive swallow assessment is essential in determining the type of exercise that is trained as the swallow can be affected in a wide variety of ways. Depending on the underlying disorder, extent, and type of Dysphagia, certain exercises can be implemented to either compensate or restrengthen the individual’s swallowing ability. For example, in patients that have delayed movement of the muscles that are suppose to provide airway protection, certain positions and head manoeuvres can be used to decrease the size of the airway passage and manually assist with airway protection.
Similarly patients who have muscles that are weaker on one side may do a similar head turn so that the muscle movement is focused on the stronger side. These types of exercises are compensatory and only assist to prevent Dysphagia. There are also strengthening exercises, which work to improve the swallow. The type of activity that works best for each individual is again selected based on assessment, as the exercises should focus on strengthening the specific muscles that have been weakened by the stroke or neurological condition for example.
Not all individuals with Dysphagia may be suitable for these exercises however. Many individuals with Dysphagia suffer from co morbid memory, fatigue, and self-regulation difficulties that hinder their ability to implement these types of strategies. For these individuals, most often a speech pathologist will implement an appropriate modified diet that the individual can handle without difficulty.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.