Background: The efficacy of rehabilitative exercises for chronic dysphagia treatment in head and neck cancer survivors has not been studied extensively and is ambiguous.
Methods: A prospective clinical phase II study using an intensive strength training program was carried out in 17 head and neck cancer survivors with chronic dysphagia. Both swallow and nonswallow exercises were performed for 6-8 weeks with a newly developed tool allowing for progressive muscle overload, including chin tuck, jaw opening, and effortful swallow exercises. Outcome parameters were feasibility, compliance, and parameters for effect.
Results: Feasibility in terms of the program completion rate was 88%. Compliance with the exercises was 97%. After the training period, chin tuck, jaw opening, and anterior tongue strength had substantially improved. All but 1 patient reported to benefit from the exercises.
Conclusion: Feasibility and compliance were high. Some objective and subjective effects of progressive load on muscle strength and swallowing function could be demonstrated.
Keywords: chin tuck; dysphagia; head and neck cancer; jaw opening; radiotherapy; rehabilitation; strength training.
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