The Carter Swallowing Center provides each patient with a customized swallowing exercise program that is tailored to their unique swallowing challenges.
The key to successful swallowing treatment is accurately identifying the underlying physical cause for each symptom and determining which evidenced-based swallowing exercises will best target that symptom.
Jen is able to maximize the effectiveness of the dysphagia swallowing therapy to get faster, better results by applying principles of exercise physiology to her treatment:
- Exercise intensity: In order for a muscle to get stronger, it must be challenged to increase its strength. During dysphagia therapy, patients swallow foods/liquids that are safe but sufficiently challenging to make the muscles get stronger. Jen may use electrical stimulation (VitalStim Therapy) during that exercise to further increase the intensity and effectiveness.
- Specificity of exercise: The dysphagia exercise programs prescribed to each patient are designed to closely match a normal swallow in terms of how the brain and muscles of the swallowing system are used. This allows the swallow to recover in the way that it is designed, free from abnormal movement patterns.
- Exercise variability: During therapy Jen will “cross-train” the muscles used for swallowing just as a personal trainer may cross-train a professional athlete. This involves exercising the swallowing muscles for both strength as well as speed, both essential qualities of normal swallowing function.
- Evidenced-based practice: As an outpatient clinic that focuses on just swallowing, the Carter Swallowing Center is able to stay current on the most up-to-date and effective treatments in swallowing therapy.
Iowa Oral Performance Instrument
The tongue is vitally important to swallowing effectiveness as it is the “pump” that pushes food and beverages through the throat. While tongue strength is crucial for swallowing, it can be difficult to determine if the tongue is weak and needs to be strengthened.
The Carter Swallowing Center uses advanced tools such as the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI) to precisely measure tongue strength and provide patients with feedback during tongue exercises. Not only does the IOPI identify when the tongue is weak and needs to be exercised, but it can also measure specific improvements in strength each week which patients find to be encouraging and motivating as they make progress.
Jen was always kind, patient, and clear at our visits. She treated us as individuals and not just a “generalization of what happens to this age group”. With a few visits we began to see positive results. A problem that our PCP said “nothing could be done” was now being dealt with successfully. The incidents of pneumonia went from 2 times a month to once a year. Remarkable, yes, but Jen knows what she is doing.-Janet B.