Dysphagia: Exercises

A swallowing problem (dysphagia) makes eating and drinking harder to do. Dysphagia is a disorder that can be described as difficulty getting food from the mouth to the stomach safely. Choking and loss of food may be more likely when you have dysphagia. This often happens due to a lack of control over food or liquid, secondary weakness in the facial muscles or tongue. Swallowing wrong may cause food or liquid to enter your lungs. This can put you at risk for pneumonia. With the direction of a licensed speech pathologist, the following exercises may assist in strengthening and increasing movement in muscles of the face, which can make food intake safer and easier. A speech language pathologist plays a critical role in diagnosing and developing treatment for people with swallowing problems.

Woman doing puckered-lip exercise.

Woman doing tongue exercise.

Exercises are done to help you control your lips.

Exercises are done to help you strengthen your tongue.

Increase lip control

By improving how well your lips close, you can reduce drooling. You may also have less food collect between your gums and cheeks. Practice these exercises ______ times a day.

  • Pucker your lips. Kiss the air, then relax. Do _____ times.

  • Blow and suck through a drinking straw. Do _____ times.

  • Close your mouth and puff out your cheeks. Do _____ times.

  • Smile _____ times.

Increase tongue strength

These exercises can help make your tongue stronger and better able to move. Practice them ______ times a day.

  • Stick your tongue out as far as you can. Do _____ times.

  • Bring the tip of your tongue toward your nose. Do _____ times.

  • Stretch your tongue toward your chin. Do _____ times.

  • Touch the corners of your mouth with the tip of your tongue. Go back and forth _____ times.

  • Push your tongue against the inside of each of your cheeks. Do _____ times.