Dysphagia Treatment

Good Shepherd’s expert speech language pathologists offer swallowing therapy for patients with dysphagia. Our speech language pathologists are specially trained to work with people with eating or swallowing difficulties.

Speech language pathologists use a range of techniques that can be tailored for your specific problem, such as teaching you swallowing exercises.

What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is an impairment in the oral and/or pharyngeal stage of the swallow.

If you experience difficulty with the oral stage of the swallow, you may have trouble containing food or liquid orally, resulting in leakage of the food or liquid from the mouth to the chin, and may show signs of food or liquid remaining in various areas of your mouth or on the tongue. You may also experience difficulty transferring the food or liquid from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth.

If you have difficulty with the pharyngeal stage of the swallow, you may experience observable symptoms such as coughing/throat clearing while consuming solids or liquids, a wet vocal quality during or after eating/drinking, and/or report a feeling or sensation that there is something stuck in your throat.

Dysphagia can originate from a variety of neuro muscular conditions, including, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, head and neck cancer, all which may compromise the swallowing function to different levels of severity.

When dysphagia does not present with observable clinical signs and symptoms, or patient reported difficulty, it may only be detected from assessment with a Modified Barium Swallow Study, which is a an x-ray picture of the swallow in motion while consuming various foods or liquids.

Dysphagia diagram

Dysphagia Symptoms

Patients with a swallowing disorder can experience several symptoms, including:

  • Choking
  • Food or liquid entering the airway when swallowing, causing coughing or throat clearing
  • May show signs of food or liquid remaining in various areas of your mouth or on the tongue
  • Difficulty transferring the food or liquid from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth
  • Feeling that something is stuck in the throat or chest after a swallow
  • Regurgitation or food coming back up after it is swallowed
  • Reflux or heartburn sensations

VitalStim® Technology

Good Shepherd’s speech language pathologists are certified to practice swallowing therapy using VitalStim® technology. This neuromuscular electrical stimulation therapy, approved by the FDA, is used for patients with swallowing disorders, otherwise known as oral pharyngeal dysphagia. VitalStim® is designed as a complimentary treatment modality to strengthen and retrain the swallowing mechanism. The ultimate goal is to resume oral intake at the least restrictive diet level.

VitalStim® involves the administration of small, electrical impulses to the swallowing muscles in the throat through electrodes attached to the skin. Once the electrodes are placed and current intensity has been increased to a satisfactory level, the therapist begins traditional exercise therapy with the patient. The patient exercises the swallowing muscles for periods of up to one hour while receiving concurrent VitalStim® therapy.

Outpatient Locations Offering Swallowing Therapy

Good Shepherd offers swallowing therapy for dysphagia at a number of outpatient locations throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment with one of our swallowing disorder specialists, please call 1.888.44.REHAB (73422)  or fill out the form below.

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