Tongue exercises help to improve your swallowing. If the practice of these activities goes on, it also helps increase your tongue’s mobility and strength. This eventually enhances the ability to swallow, mainly when used with various types of exercises for swallowing.
Before the phase of swallowing, we chew your food in our mouth in the proper shape, size, and consistency so that it can be correctly swallowed. After swallowing, it passes from mouth to pharynx. The food then passes through the esophagus (a long tube) before entering the stomach from the pharynx.
Top Useful Tongue Exercises
The movements mentioned above require coordinated actions from all the muscles along the path for digestion. If any part does not function correctly, it can lead to problems during swallowing. In addition, muscles’ weakness in any area can make swallowing difficult.
Swallowing or tongue exercises strengthen the muscles and can also make you control the powers if you are suffering from swallowing problems. A speech-language pathologist can help you or have medical advice for specific types of swallowing exercises to improve your swallowing.
How is the Tongue Involved in Swallowing and Chewing?
In swallowing and chewing, numerous muscles are working together, and the tongue is one of them.
The tongue is one of the vital organs in the process of swallowing. It moves around the mouth and helps to form lubricated and chewed food. The tongue also helps in the transportation of the chewed food to the pharynx to reach the stomach.
After the role of the tongue in the process of swallowing, some other nerves and muscles take over.
Brain injuries, strokes, or any other illness can probably impair the movement of the tongue, which will eventually damage the ability to swallow. If you cannot swallow normally, that might cause a severe problem. Ultimately this results in pneumonia or blocking air from getting into the lungs by severe choking.
Like all the other organs, the tongue can also be recovered with appropriate exercises. For dysphagia that is caused by stroke, tongue exercises work effectively. Probably, eight weeks of tongue exercises can improve the swallowing and quality of life.
The exercises mentioned below are very practical and strengthen the functions, and you can do these exercises at any time. For some people affected with brain injury or stroke, this can be pretty easy to perform, which can be very difficult for others.
As the day passes, the exercises become more familiar and more accessible to you. Keep on increasing the goals and strength required to recover completely. You can also increase the exercise duration, or you can also increase the number of repetitions.
- Open up your mouth as wide as possible. Touch the tip of the tongue to the front of the palate or the upper teeth. Do this for 4 to 5 seconds; repeat this tongue exercise at least 5 to 10 times.
- Open your mouth, touch the back roof of your mouth from the tip of your tongue. Keep the tongue for 5 seconds; repeat this tongue exercise at least 5 to 10 times.
- Stick out your tongue as much as possible and leave it for at least 20 seconds. Repeat this tongue exercise at least 5 to 10 times.
- To the very back of the upper mouth, bring the tip of your tongue. Keep it there for at least 10 seconds; repeat this tongue exercise at least 5 to 10 times.
- Move the top of your tongue across the upper mouth from the front (behind the front teeth) to the soft palate at the back. Hold for a couple of minutes, do this ten times a day, repeat this tongue exercise 5 to 10 times.
- With the tip of your tongue, press the inside cheek; repeat this tongue exercise at least 5 to 10 times.
- Push against your tongue, a spoon, or any flat object, extend your tongue out as much as possible. Hold at least 5 seconds, repeat this tongue exercise 10 times a day.
- Pull your tongue to the corner as much as possible with the help of a depressor. Do this for at least 5 seconds. Also, do this on both sides of your mouth; repeat 5 times.
- Hold your tongue back and pretend to gargle, repeat.
- Hold your tongue back as much as possible and pretend to yawn; repeat this exercise.
Is a Tongue Exercise Safe?
Tongue exercises or any other kind of swallowing exercises are very safe. However, suppose you face any problems, discomfort, or pain, then you can temporarily stop doing those exercises. Let your therapist or doctor know about the issues.
Until then, do not practice any tongue exercise. Once your doctor prescribes those exercises to you for any other medical condition.
In various exercises and tongue exercises, you will also practice other exercises like strengthening lips and cheeks. Do these in the same order mentioned above so that no movements are left out. Your doctor can also prescribe you some exercises that would target the problems.
Your speech-language pathologist (SLP) may also tell you about the frequency of the exercises. But in most cases, it has to be repeated several times a day for more benefits.
Need for Tongue Exercises
If you have any trouble swallowing, you need to practice this exercise. Medically this condition is known as dysphagia.
Dysphagia leads to aspiration, this happens when you swallow your food from the air tube, and it enters the lungs. This is a severe problem because dysphagia can also lead to pneumonia and various other issues.
So, your healthcare team or your speech-language pathologist may suggest you swallow exercises. For example, as tongue exercises, to treat this illness. This can be in addition to surgery, medicines, change in eating positions, dietary changes.
If practiced regularly with proper prescription maintenance, this exercise only gives strength to your swallowing muscle. It also improves your swallowing and prevents aspiration.
Here are some of the medical illnesses that can lead to problems of swallowing:
- Neck and head cancer
- Head injury
- Muscular dystrophies
- Sjogren syndrome (reduces saliva)
- Parkinson disease (nervous system conditions)
- Esophagus blockage (tumor)
Positions for Exercises
When you are going to start the tongue exercise, you might need to move from your position. Your speech-language pathologist may suggest you some instructions for every exercise you will do. For example, the effectiveness of the exercises will increase if you are out of bed while exercising.
It will be great if you do not have any distractions in your surroundings. For example, do not switch on the television or mobile phone. Instead, perform the exercise when no one is around you or doesn’t have any visitors. This will not only help you to have a focus on the exercise but also will have more benefits.
After the Completion of the Exercises
After the exercises are completed, you can go back to your normal activities to be performed.
You should keep a record after you do the exercise, this will help you exercise without missing it. It will also help you give proper feedback to your speech-language pathologist. Make a record of what exercise you are practicing, with the number of repetitions. If any problem arrived, make sure to consult with your speech-language pathologist.
As you have progressed, your medical team or speech-language pathologist may suggest new exercises. The progression may include fiberoptic evaluation of swallowing. Also, imagining techniques and swallowing exams are necessary. Also, it takes two to three weeks an improve in swallowing.
After your swallowing improves, the risk of aspiration also decreases. Your speech-language pathologist can also change your diet. You can some types of food that were restricted during the exercises. This will also improve nutritional intake and overall health and help you have a good quality of life.
The exercises prescribed by your speech-language pathologist must be done regularly without any excuses. If you do not do these practices, you will see minor improvement or effectiveness in your swallowing problems. Coordinate with all your healthcare members or speech-language pathologist to get proper treatment.
Before you subject to any test or procedure for the swallowing issues, make sure to know:
- The name of the procedure
- The reasons for the procedure
- The results expected from the test
- The benefits of the test
- Any risks in the procedure
- Any side effects of the procedure
- Complications during the procedure
- The qualification of the person doing the test
- If you do not do the test, what will be the side effects
- Any alternative approach to this
- Who to consult after the results if any problem arises?
- The fees of the procedure.
If you do proper tongue exercises with proper posture, this also helps to maintain a wider palate. It is not yet properly taken into account. This has several benefits, but it is said that no adults are practicing tongue exercises to widen their palate.
Also, proper tongue exercises help you avoid various health issues, including breathing habits, misaligned teeth, and tongue thrust. If you have issues with teeth alignment, tongue placement, or breathing, you can consult a doctor too.
The tongue exercises are efficient and easy to do. There are no such fixed timings to do these. If you do the above-mentioned exercise correctly, you will increase your tongue’s strength and your swallowing ability. Your cheeks and lips will also be strengthening, and you can have a good quality of life by doing these exercises.
Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.