Aerobics for the throat may help head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiation maintain their swallowing function. Researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville are close to completing a pilot trial to determine if the exercises work.
Radiation therapy often causes pain and dryness. Patients stop swallowing during treatment but often find they cannot swallow normally after treatment. In the most severe cases, patients are not even able to swallow their own saliva and need feeding tubes. Participants in the study either receive exercises that target the muscles, exercises that do not activate any muscles, or standard care.
Researchers identified different exercises they believe have an impact on certain muscle groups in the throat. One exercise is called a hard swallow. Researchers place some aerated bulbs at the top of the mouth that measure pressure and tongue strength. Then, patients place their tongue to the roof of their mouth and hold it there for about five seconds, squeezing as hard as they can.