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DYSPHAGIA · ADULTS
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Flexing the suprahyoids in dysphagia therapy? Don’t sweat it!
Meet the recline: an exercise targeting the suprahyoids for patients working up to the head lift.
September 5, 2021
You’ve all heard of the head lift exercise (AKA the Shaker) that targets the suprahyoid muscles. It involves the patient lying down on a flat surface and repeatedly raising and lowering their head, as well as doing sustained head lifts. It can be difficult and uncomfortable for patients with complex health or mobility issues. What to do?
Enter the recline exercise! It’s like the head lift, but patients can do it while reclining. No need to get horizontal!
To do the recline exercise, your patient can be seated in an office chair (head completely unuspported) with a pillow behind their lower back so their hips and trunk are at a 135° angle. The exercise itself involves reclining and lifting their head from an angled position while seated. This approach still activates the suprahyoids since the patient’s head is suspended and supported by their neck muscles, but it is easier to do.
“…choosing appropriate swallowing exercises [is] a difficult but important task that must balance efficacy with ease of use to maximize likelihood of adherence.”
– Larsen et al., 2021
In this study, Larsen and colleagues compared suprahyoid muscle activation between the recline exercise and the traditional head lift using surface electromyography. They also tracked perceived exertion and whether the patients could complete their set of exercises. The patients enrolled in this study had head and neck cancer and were at least 6-months post-radiation treatment.
Larsen, A. M., Wolford, L. L., & Brobeck, T. C. (2021). A comparison of the head lift exercise and recline exercise in patients with chronic head and neck cancer post-radiation. Supportive Care in Cancer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05925-9 [open access]
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