Speech therapist helps patient with swallowing problems - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Speech therapist helps patient with swallowing problems

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Mitch Lanning practices tongue exercise with a spoon during his swallowing therapy. Mitch Lanning practices tongue exercise with a spoon during his swallowing therapy.

It's happened to all of us.  The food goes down the wrong pipe when we're swallowing.  We cough and choke and then we're usually fine.  But what if you coughed and choked with every bite.  One Sioux City man shares his experiences and how's he's overcome it.

Mitch Lanning practices his exercise to strengthen his tongue and the muscles in his throat.
"It sounds weird, but it works," says Lanning.

The exercises have helped him improve how he eats.  Even though he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in 2003, his trouble swallowing didn't begin until this past November.  

"Basically if I take any bites out of food, I have a hard time swallowing it," says Lanning.  

Lanning had trouble swallowing everything from water to popcorn.  It would cause him to cough and choke.

"I had certain foods I'd stay away from otherwise I would choke and make a scene at the table," says Lanning.

That's when he started working with speech therapist James Olson at Mercy Medical Center.

"The tricky thing about the swallowing is that if it's not going well and it's going down the wrong tube it can cause some very serious things like pneumonia," says Olson.  

Called dysphagia, difficulty swallowing is more common among people who've had strokes or brain injuries, but it can happen to any of us.  When you're coughing more than usual, then it might be time to see a doctor.

"It does happen," says Olson.  "It's when it gets to be more than it should be and it's happening quite frequently is when you should probably get it checked out."

Olson had Lanning repeat several words, like 'kick' and 'go.'  Those words make the tongue work harder and build strength.  Lanning also did tongue exercise with a spoon during his swallowing therapy. It's made a big difference.

"Yes, it has," says Lanning.

Lanning was on a liquid diet when he first started his swallowing therapy.  He says that was motivation to keep doing his exercises so he could get eat normally again.     

Olson says Lanning did a lot of the therapy on his own at home and that's one reason he improved so much so quickly.

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