HealthDay News — A novel rehabilitative swallowing exercise program aids long-term head and neck cancer survivors with chronic dysphagia, according to a study published in Head & Neck.

Sophie AC Kraaijenga, MD, PhD, from The Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, and colleagues evaluated an intensive strength training program in 17 head and neck cancer survivors with chronic dysphagia. Swallow and non-swallow exercises were performed for 6-8 weeks, allowing for progressive muscle overload, including chin tuck, jaw opening, and effortful swallow exercises.

The researchers found that the program was feasible, with an 88% completion rate. Exercise compliance was 97%. After the training period, there were substantial improvements in chin tuck, jaw opening, andanterior tongue strength. All but one patient reported benefiting from the exercises.

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“Some objective and subjective effects of progressive load on muscle strength and swallowing function could be demonstrated,” the authors wrote.

Disclosure: he study was funded in part by Atos Medical.

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Kraaijenga SAC, Molen LV, Stuiver MM, et al. Efficacy of a novel swallowing exercise program for chronic dysphagia in long-term head and neck cancer survivors [published online August 2, 2017]. Head Neck. doi:10.1002/hed.24710