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What is Swallowing Therapy?

Carter Swallowing Center Therapies

Difficulty swallowing, called dysphagia (dis-fay-ja), is common and affects millions of people every year. Fortunately, with swallowing therapy, dysphagia is a treatable condition.

The muscles in the mouth and throat are the same type of muscles as those in the arms and legs, and they can become weak due to variety of medical conditions.

Common Causes of Dysphagia

  • Stroke or brain tumor
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal surgery that impacts the throat
  • Deconditioning due to age
  • Weakness following an illness

Swallowing Therapy is like Physical Therapy for the Throat Muscles

Just as physical therapy is used to strengthen the arms and legs, swallowing therapy improves strength and function of the swallowing muscles.

As a specialty clinic, the Carter Swallowing Center uses the most advanced, up-to-date swallowing therapies based on the latest research in the field. This includes treatment tools often used by physical therapists such as electrical stimulation and myofascial release.

Options for Swallowing Therapy

Swallowing therapy programs at the Carter Swallowing Center are customized to fit each patient’s schedule and availability.

Some patients come to the Carter Swallowing Center for treatment using advanced equipment and programs which can speed up recovery. This may include VitalStim Therapy or the McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program.

Patients may also be prescribed swallowing therapy exercise programs to complete independently at home. This may include evidenced-based exercises or myofascial release.

While you are working to improve your swallowing, you will also be provided with specific suggestions to use during meals to make eating and drinking safer and easier.

Jen Carter will discuss recommendations for which options are the best for you at the end of your first appointment. Ultimately, she works with you to determine a treatment plan that will not only improve swallowing function but is also the best plan for your specific lifestyle and schedule parameters. Jen doesn’t take a cookie-cutter approach to your care and understands that a customized program is necessary for your success.

Jen is one in a million. She has improved my swallowing and quality of life. Jen and her therapies have helped me more than I thought possible, and she has saved my life. Jen is a knowledgeable, compassionate, and caring speech pathologist, and I highly recommend the Carter Swallowing Center.

- Dorothy W.

Initial Swallowing Evaluations

Your first appointment at the Carter Swallowing Center will be a clinical swallowing evaluation. You’ll describe your swallowing challenges and the strength and movement of your swallowing muscles will be assessed. The plan for your therapy will be discussed at the end of the appointment.

A thorough evaluation also includes a Modified Barium Swallow study (MBS) which is completed in the x-ray department of a hospital. You may have already had this test, and we can often use the results of that study as part of your evaluation. If you haven’t had an MBS, we will schedule one to occur soon after your first appointment.

During the MBS, a radiologist takes moving x-ray images of the mouth and throat while you swallow food and liquid mixed with barium. The MBS reveals what is happening to the food/drink inside your mouth and throat when you swallow and which muscles are not properly functioning so that appropriate swallowing treatment can be planned.

By combining these 2 assessments, Jen can accurately identify the specific cause of your swallowing symptoms to effectively determine the best course of treatment needed for your recovery.

I would highly recommend Jen Carter for treatment in swallowing issues. Her ability to listen, evaluate, and construct an effective treatment plan are exemplary and she certainly has made a significant improvement in my life.

-George C.