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UR Medicine / Otolaryngology (ENT) / Speech Pathology / Our Services / Muscle Tension Dysphagia


Muscle Tension Dysphagia

What is muscle tension dysphagia?

Dysphagia is a medical diagnosis used to describe an impairment in swallowing food, liquids, pills or saliva.  Muscle tension dysphagia refers to excess tension in the muscles of the larynx, neck, jaw, tongue or chest that impacts an individual’s ability to swallow, in the setting of normal oropharyngeal and esophageal swallowing function on a modified barium swallow study (MBSS).  Muscle tension dysphagia is diagnosed only when other causes for dysphagia have been ruled out.

Speech-Language Pathology Evaluation & Therapy

Our Speech-Language Pathologists have specialty training and expertise in swallowing and swallowing disorders.

  • A detailed history collection
  • Quality of life measures
  • In-clinic food trials
  • Instrumental swallowing study to assess the physiology of the swallow to guide treatment planning.  There are two types:
    • Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS) / Pharyngogram – This is a video x-ray study used to assess your ability to swallow food and liquids.  The study is completed by Speech-Language Pathologist, Radiologist, and a Radiology Technologist. During the study you will eat and drink different food and liquid items containing barium.  Barium allows the SLP and Radiologist to see the food and liquid as you swallow under x-ray.
    • Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) - The procedure involves the Speech-Language Pathologist passing a flexible endoscope through the nose, into the throat, so that the voice box and upper airway can be viewed from above.   Once the scope is place, you will be given food, dyed green to contrast against the tissues in the throat, and assesses the function of the swallowing mechanism.
  • Referral for additional work up with Neurology, Otolaryngology or Gastroenterology, as warranted
  • Referral for ancillary services, such as massage, acupuncture, counseling, etc.

If you are recommended for therapy for muscle tension dysphagia, therapy will target:

  • Education on your swallowing impairment
  • Massage and stretches to reduce tension in the larynx, tongue, jaw, neck and chest
  • Voice exercises to help reduce tension
  • Diaphragmatic breathing and rescue breathing strategies
  • Progressive therapeutic trials

Links for Additional Information:

ASHA Wire Article “Muscle Tension Dysphagia Evaluation and Treatment” :