Head and neck cancer can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to swallow, eat, and speak. Rehabilitation is crucial to improve these functions. Here are four types of interventions for rehabilitation of swallowing after head and neck cancer:
These exercises focus on strengthening the muscles used for swallowing and improving coordination between these muscles. They can include tongue exercises such as using resistance style devices and swallowing exercises such as swallowing with extra effort or utilizing maneuvers such as the Mendelssohn maneuver. A speech-language pathologist will conduct a thorough evaluation to see what exercises are right for you!
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES):
After medically cleared to do so, NMES can be used to stimulate the nerves and muscles involved in swallowing. This type of intervention has been shown to improve swallowing function in some patients.
Some dysphagia patients may require medical interventions such as esophageal dilation or the use of a palatal prosthesis to aid in swallowing. Think of this as optimizing swallowing rehabilitation!
Manual therapy work:
This can include myofascial release and manual lymphatic drainage techniques to help reduce inflammation and improve tissue mobility in the neck and throat area for dysphagia patients.
These four interventions can be used in combination with each other and can greatly aid dysphagia patients in the rehabilitation of swallowing function after head and neck cancer.