Many of us living with a progressive neurological disorder notice the throat muscles weakening over time. There are several good exercises available to help improve or maintain your current capabilities. A physical therapist can be of help.
I perform the following exercises every day, often twice a day, and it seems to help.
1. Stick Out Your Tongue: Bite down lightly on your tongue to hold it in position. Swallow ten times (or more) while holding the tongue between the teeth. Perform this exercise every day
2. Large Smile: Make the sound “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” as you stretch your mouth muscles into a large smile. You should be able to feel throat muscles vibrate (stretch).
3. Pucker your Lips: Make the sound “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” as you pucker you lips. You should once again be able to feel your throat muscles vibrate (stretch).
Please note the study below. Only six patients were tested, but the information might be helpful.
Dysphagia due to bulbar involvement is a major symptom of patients with spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA). The aim of this pilot study was to test the efficacy and safety of the head lift exercise for swallowing dysfunction in SBMA.
We enrolled 6 subjects with genetically confirmed SBMA and instructed them to perform the head lift exercise for 6 weeks. The efficacy outcome measures were the changes from baseline in tongue pressure, the scores of swallowing functional questionnaires, and the motor functional scales and parameters of videofluorography (VF).
All subjects completed the study and no major adverse effects were recorded. Tongue pressure significantly increased by 19.2 ± 0.15% (p < 0.05) after the 6-week head lift exercise. The scores for oral dysphagia also improved, although there was no significant change in VF parameters or other variables examined pre- and post-exercise.
Our findings suggested that the head lift exercise may improve swallowing dysfunction, particularly tongue pressure, in SBMA.
The Head Lifting Exercise is shown below. You can download it from Dr. Shaker’s website also.