Swallowing Treatments For Dysphagia

The Carter Swallowing Center offers advanced treatments for swallowing disorders that are not available at many clinics.

VitalStim Therapy for dysphagia treatment
Preparing a patient for sEMG and VitalStim therapy

Therapies offered include…

 FDA-cleared neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), called VitalStim:

NMES (electrical stimulation) is routinely used by physical and occupational therapists to help restore muscle function.  The VitalStim® Therapy device was specifically developed in 2002 for the small muscles on the throat used for swallowing.   The FDA has mandated that only clinicians that are VitalStim certified may use this treatment for swallowing therapy.

VitalStim® Therapy administers a small, carefully calibrated electrical impulse to the swallowing muscles in the throat through electrodes attached to the skin.   The electrical current stimulates the nerves that make the muscles contract.   By applying this current during exercise, NMES can cause a greater number of muscle fibers to contract during the exercise which in turn can make the therapy more effective.

The use of NMES in swallowing treatment is well supported by clinical research.  Studies have shown that using this equipment during swallowing exercise greatly improves the effectiveness of the treatment.   Read more about the NMES clinical research.

 “Of the many therapists who treated me, the most effective by far is Jennifer Carter.”

– Tim E.

Surface electromyography (sEMG)

Surface electromyography is a medical device that can provide biofeedback to a patient to make therapy more effective. Biofeedback helps patients become more aware of body functions so that they can actively change or improve those functions, similar to the way a golfer watches a video recording of his golf swing to improve his technique.

The sEMG device uses electrodes placed on the skin to detect the electrical activity generated when muscles contract.  The device then converts the electrical activity measured into a visual and auditory signal that a patient can use to retrain the body on how to use those muscles. Using sEMG in dysphagia treatment helps improve the strength, speed, and coordination needed for an effective swallow. Clinical research has shown that using sEMG in therapy can improve the overall effectiveness of swallowing treatment Read more about the sEMG clinical research 


McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program (MDTP)

MDTP focuses on using swallowing as an exercise and progressively advances patients toward more normal eating. The program is based on principles of exercise physiology and rehabilitation including frequency of training, intensity of training, targeting both speed and coordination, and variability in muscle movements (“cross-training”).

For patients who wish to complete this program, MDTP is an intensive “boot camp” for swallowing and is comprised of 15 treatment sessions- 5 days a week for 3 weeks.  The sessions are 1 hour in length with home exercises completed between therapy sessions.

MDTP follows a systematic framework to advance patients to safe oral intake with more variations in what foods and drinks can be successfully swallowed.  The program can be used with most patients, regardless of the severity of the swallowing difficulty.  Each patient will start the program at a level based on the results of their swallowing evaluation and will progress from there.   Read more about MDTP clinical research 


Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that has been used by physical therapists for years to restore movement in tight areas of the body.   Many patients who have dysphagia have tightness in the muscles of their throat which limits their ability to swallow.  By using myofascial release in conjunction with the other therapies, the range of movement of the swallowing muscles can be improved to maximize the results of swallowing exercise.   Patients who have thick tissue on their neck follow radiation treatment for head and neck cancer or who have had surgery on their throat have seen benefit from myofascial release.


Evaluation and treatment for dysphagia and speech is covered by Medicare and most insurance.   Insurance we accept.


“Jen is a wonderful, compassionate clinician and educator who understands the complexities of human communication/swallowing impairments. She is a valued specialist in the area of dysphagia, and a champion of the individuals she serves.” 

-Heather L. Robinson, MA, CCC-SLP

St. Alphonsus Rehabilitation Services , Boise ID


Call 720-880-6232 to  determine if you are a candidate for treatment.

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