Adoption into clinical practice of two therapies to manage swallowing disorders: exercise-based swallowing rehabilitation and electrical stimulation

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Purpose of review

To review recent literature depicting a shift in dysphagia rehabilitation in adults. Distinguishing rehabilitation from compensation in dysphagia management, a review of basic exercise principles is followed by description of recent publications depicting exercise-based therapies. Subsequently, transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TES) is reviewed as it may contribute to exercise-based dysphagia rehabilitation in adults.

Recent findings

Surveys have documented extensive variability in the clinical application of dysphagia therapy techniques. Despite this variability, two trends are emerging in dysphagia rehabilitation research: documentation of physiologic and functional changes within the swallowing mechanism subsequent to therapy; and prophylactic exercise-based therapies. In addition, extensive efforts have emerged describing the potential application of TES in dysphagia rehabilitation. Though results of these efforts are conflicted, TES may serve a useful role as an adjunct to well developed exercise-based rehabilitation for dysphagia.


The focus of dysphagia rehabilitation in adults is changing. Current efforts indicate that exercise-based therapies should incorporate multiple principles of exercise physiology and document physiologic change within the impaired swallowing mechanism. TES may function as an adjunctive modality; however, current practices should be evaluated to develop additional parameters of stimulation that are focused toward specific dysphagia impairments.

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