What is Dysphagia?


At Melanie Massey Physical Therapy, our Speech-Language Pathologists work with individuals experiencing swallowing disorders to increase swallowing safety and promote the least restrictive diet to make eating enjoyable.  We combine exercises and compensatory strategies with neuromuscular electrical stimulation to strengthen and reeducate the laryngeal muscles for swallowing, with the experience of our Speech-Language Pathology team. 

Signs & Symptoms of Swallowing Disorders

Symptoms of a swallowing disorder can include:

  • running nose during meal times
  • coughing before, during or after meals 
  • food escaping the mouth/drooling
  • feeling of something in the throat/neck
  • reoccurring aspiration pneumonia

Difficulty with swallowing, or dysphagia, can occur due to a variety of medial conditions. These symptoms can secondary to a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS, etc. Difficulty swallowing may also occur from cancer in the oral cavity and/or neck. 

Any phase of swallowing can be impacted, as the food and liquid make their way from the mouth to the stomach. Speech-Language Pathologists have concentrated skills and knowledge related to evaluation and treatment of dysphagia. Clinicians aim to cooperate with patients and identify abnormal swallowing and strategies to support the safest and most effective intake of meals for patients through diet modifications, electrical stimulation, compensatory maneuvers, and hyolaryngeal and oral motor exercises. 

The Evaluation Process

Prior to your evaluation with your Speech-Language Pathologist, it is recommended that you complete an instrumental swallow study. These methods may include a Modified Barium Swallow Study and nasophyryngeal scoping. Therapists may complete screenings and evaluations; however, visualization of the larynx provides information regarding the cause of the difficulty. This provides specific information about the physiology that Speech Therapists are unable to see through their eyes alone.

Ampcare Effective Swallowing Protocol Treatment

In many cases, patients are candidates to receive Ampcare. Ampcare Effective Swallowing Protocol is a noninvasive method of neuromuscular electrical stimulation.  Electrodes are placed on the skin to trigger the contraction of affected swallowing muscles. Hyolaryngeal muscles are targeted, as these muscles lift the “voice box” during swallowing to protect food from entering the lungs. 

Treatment sessions last for 30 minutes with customizable intensities for each patient. It should be noted that ESP cause the muscles to pull up; therefore, it is not painful.  ESP is combined with laryngeal exercises to increase contraction and effectiveness. 

Although ESP is evidence-based and cleared by the FDA, it is not appropriate for all individuals. In such cases, clinicians work with the patients to complete other treatments to improve swallowing. 

If you or someone you love could benefit from an evaluation, call us at 318-396-1969 and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Sources: Ampcare ESP, American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)

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