Muhammad Ali, Parkinson’s and Dysphagia

As the world continues to mourn the passing of Muhammad Ali, we at the blog were thinking about the legendary boxer’s life and his long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

Ali was known as a fighter, having gone up against the likes of Larry Holmes, George Foreman and Joe Frazier — but his greatest battle may have been Parkinson’s Disease.

Parkinson’s Disease impacts an estimated one million Americans, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, with about 60,000 new diagnoses each year.

Ali’s public bout with the disease began with a memorable moment at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when the gold medalist lit the Olympic flame despite his badly shaking limbs.

Why are we talking about Parkinson’s Disease on a blog about dysphagia (difficulty swallowing?) Because people with Parkinson’s often find themselves suffering with dysphagia as well.

Parkinson’s impacts motor function, often manifesting through tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement and postural instability. But additional problems may display as a result of Parkinson’s — one of them being dysphagia.

If you’re suffering from dysphagia, regardless of the cause, we hope that Ali can be an inspiration to you to keep fighting.

Ali was relentless in training for his matches. He knew that regardless of the challenger he’d face in the ring, his body would be prepared.

Swallow Solutions offers an innovative product to help dysphagia patients train the muscles involved in the swallow — ultimately helping them regain the ability to swallow.

With an attitude like Ali, and the SwallowSTRONG, dysphagia patients can often times deliver a knock out blow to their swallowing problems.

(June is National Dysphagia Awareness month. Follow us on Twitter or join us on Facebook for more dysphagia facts throughout the month.)


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Swallow Solutions Training Videos

The SwallowSTRONG is an innovative device that helps patients with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) strengthen the muscles associated the swallow. We want to make the unique device as easy to use as possible, so we created training videos that cover many ‘frequently asked questions.’

If you’re using SwallowSTRONG with your patients, or if you’re a patient at home using the device, bookmark this page and keep it in mind when you run into any issues.

The first video in the series is the device overview. If you’re new to the device, check out this short video to familiarize yourself. It’s less than two minutes long, but well worth your time!

The next video in the series covers an extremely important area: mouthpiece configuration. A proper mouthpiece ensures the most effective use of the device. An important video for patients and clinicians alike.

The next video covers SSMS, the SwallowSTRONG Management System. SSMS provides clinicians with the ability to remotely track adherence, view patient progress, remotely update therapy targets and more. And it’s all HIPAA compliant. Check out the video below.

In our sample therapy session video, clinicians can get a feel for how a real therapy session would unfold with a patient.

The therapy parameters video covers how clinicians can set unique, personalized parameters for a patient. Parameters include press duration, repetition count and more. By adjusting these parameters, clinicians can craft the most effective therapy plan possible.

Our final video covers how to determine therapy targets. In this video, you’ll learn how to establish an appropriate pressure for therapy — one that a patient will be capable of achieving, but will be sufficiently challenging for strengthening.

If you take a few moments to watch all of these videos, you’ll have a good baseline for working with your SwallowSTRONG.

Keep these videos in your arsenal throughout your use of the device, and you’ll be properly armed in your fight against dysphagia.

VIDEO: SwallowSTRONG Device Overview

If you’ve been following the blog, you may already be familiar with the SwallowSTRONG device. The video below allows you to see it in action.

More videos are available on our website. Check them out here.

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CMS Working to Reduce Hospital Admissions

A new payment model released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last month could help to reduce preventable hospital admissions.

According to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, the new plan would increase payments to skilled nursing facilities, allowing them to provide their residents with treatment for common ailments and conditions that could potentially lead to hospitalization.

Physicians would also receive increased payments to perform assessments at SNFs, while under the current model, Medicare pays physicians less to perform evaluations outside of a hospital environment.

Under the new model, participating facilities would be expected to reinvest in staff training and equipment purchases.

Effectively, the payments would make it easier for skilled nursing facilities to provide higher-quality care and lower costs to beneficiaries.

By expanding their patient-care role, SNFs could double-down to reduce hospital admissions by investing in equipment like the Swallow Solutions device, which has been shown to reduce hospital admissions by 61 percent.

The new payment model will enter testing in six health facilities across seven states later this year.

The Complex Process of the Swallow

If you’ve read our blog before, you’re familiar with the frustrating nature of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

But the fact is, swallowing is a complex physical process, and as such, many things can go wrong. That’s why it’s important to have professionals diagnose and prepare a treatment plan.

In today’s post, we’ll break down the steps of the swallow. Be sure to check out this article on Provider for more details.

When we think of the swallow, we sometimes think of it as a fluid, continuous process. But what we think of as swallowing actually contains four distinct phases: the Oral Preparatory phase, the Oral phase, the Pharyngeal phase and the Esophageal phase.

The Oral Preparatory phase takes place when food first enters the mouth. To keep food in the mouth, the lips must possess appropriate strength. The tongue and jaw work together to hold the food in place until the next phase begins.

The Oral phase is the tongue’s time to shine. It begins anterior and posterior movement, pushing food to the back of the throat. The back of the tongue rises as food begins its trip down into the pharynx.

The Pharyngeal phase begins with the soft palate rising to meet the posterior pharyngeal wall and the larynx rising towards the base of the tongue. Openings to the trachea and larynx are covered by passive movement, and the muscles of the pharynx contract to bring the food towards the muscles at the top of the food tube (the cricopharyngeal sphincter).

The Esophageal phase involves — you guessed it — the esophagus. The cricopharyngeus muscle relaxes, allowing the food to pass into the esophagus. A quick wavelike contraction of the muscles in the esophagus pushes food down towards the stomach.

By understanding the phases of the swallow, it’s easier to see how a number of things could cause problems during it, resulting in dysphagia. If you or a loved one have difficulty swallowing, oropharyngeal strengthening with the SwallowSTRONG may be able to help.

Check out more information about Swallow Solutions here.

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Congratulations to Barb Cook for 35 Years of Service!

Swallow Solutions is pleased to congratulate Barb Cook, M.S., CCC-SP for 35 years of service in the speech pathology department at the Edwards Hines Jr. VA Hospital.


Throughout her career, Barb has helped many patients with swallowing problems, and has recently helped bring SwallowSTRONG therapy to dysphagia patients.

The Hines VA is a T21 demonstration SwallowSTRONG clinic site, and helps to bring a multidisciplinary approach to dysphagia patients.

Barb was recognized for her service with a ceremony, where colleagues and a former patient gathered to honor her.

Congratulations again on 35 years of helping speech pathology patients!

Success Story – LinguaCare in West Virginia

Linguacare is an independent speech language pathology service that contracts with healthcare facilities. They’ve been using device facilitated oropharyngeal strengthening for the past two years.

We sat down with Jacqueline Frasier M.A., CCC-SLP to discuss her success using the SwallowSTRONG device.

Q: Do you have any examples of where Swallow Solutions products helped one of your patients?

A: Absolutely. I have had numerous patients have success with Swallow Solutions and SwallowSTRONG. Recently, I had a patient with dysphagia (male, 71 yrs. old) and his wife were in my office crying with joy over the fact that they shared their first meal together for the first time in over 1 and a half years.

Q: Tell us more about this man and his problems.

A: He had head and neck cancer and was 2 years post chemo/radiation. His therapists tried compensatory maneuvers along with oropharyngeal strengthening. However, he was not doing well and his diet degraded to pureed foods and thickened fluids, and then a PEG tube was inserted about 6 months before I began to treat him. His wife was so supportive that she did not want to eat if her husband could not eat and she lost 40 pounds!

Q: So what did you do differently?

A: Well, I saw the Swallow Solutions product at a conference in October of 2013. I started using the device in 2014 and had success with other patients. I decided he was an excellent candidate for the SwallowSTRONG device. My patient was so motivated by the device and was especially engaged with the feedback of the software.

Q: What was the outcome?

A: He strengthened over the first 4 weeks and pureed foods were re-introduced. After 6 weeks of using the device, the PEG tube was removed.

Q: How did the patient react to having the PEG tube removed?

A: Well, that’s why the patient and his wife were in my office crying. They were able to eat together again!

Q: How is the patient doing today?

A: It’s been a total of 12 weeks since I first saw him and he does not need the device anymore. He’s eating full solids now. Every time he eats he’s using all the muscles that were strengthened with the SwallowSTRONG device.

Q: How did your patient pay for the use of the device?

A: I rent the SwallowSTRONG device, and I can use it with all of my patients. The patient pays for the mouthpiece.

Q: How did you get the patient to pay for the mouthpiece?

A: I explained it to the patient this way: the device offers is evidence-based and offers real results, and he’d be saving himself money in the long run. Think about it. With regular visits to his other doctors and therapists, the co-pays alone are very expensive. If we could reduce or eliminate those costs, the mouthpiece pays for itself, all while he’s getting better and enjoying a better quality of life.

Learn more about Linguacare here.

Respected Academic Journal Reports Evidence Supporting SwallowSTRONG Therapy

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) recently published an article entitled Effects of Device-Facilitated Isometric Progressive Resistance Oropharyngeal Therapy on Swallowing and Health-Related Outcomes in Older Adults with Dysphagia

The article discusses a effects of a study during which 56 patients with dysphagia completed lingual strengthening using the device by Swallow Solutions. It discusses the positive impact the therapy has on health outcomes, as well as significant cost-savings for facilities.

Here are the highlights:

Patients health and wellbeing were followed for up to 17 months.

Decreased pneumonia diagnoses. Incidence of pneumonia decreased 67%. 

Decreased hospital admissions. Hospital admissions decreased 61%. 

Patients increased lingual strength. Swallowing disorders occur in older patients due, at least in part, to weakening lingual musculature. After 8 weeks, patients were significantly stronger. As they became stronger, patients reported that they had less difficulty swallowing and improved quality of life.

They noted increased desire for food, improved mental health, improved social wellbeing, and less fatigue.


Decreased bed days, cost savings. Bed days decreased 56% resulting in overall savings of over one million dollars. 

The results speak for themselves. Lingual strengthening using the Swallow Solutions device works. Learn more by visiting the Swallow Solutions website.

The full study is available here.


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December 2015 was BIG!

The final numbers are in, and December 2015 was a record breaking month for Swallow Solutions!

During that month, Swallow Solutions sold more SwallowSTRONG devices and individual mouthpieces than any other month in company history!

We’ve now helped more than 1,500 dysphagia patients alleviate their swallowing problems. The SwallowSTRONG is in use in outpatient clinics and skilled nursing facilities around the country.

We’re excited and thankful for the opportunity to help people improve their health and quality of life–and we’re just getting started.

Nearly a month into the new year, we wanted to share our excitement and thank you for taking part in it.

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How SSMS Makes Dysphagia Treatment Easier

For patients with difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia) SwallowSTRONG from Swallow Solutions can provide the strengthening therapy needed to regain the ability to swallow, and with it the ability to eat and drink normally.

The SwallowSTONG Management System (SSMS) is the perfect companion software to SwallowSTRONG. SSMS is a cloud-based system that allows for clinicians using SwallowSTRONG to treat dysphagia to track relevant patient data, making patient care quantifiable and easy to manage.

And SSMS is completely HIPAA compliant–no protected health information is ever collected or stored on the SwallowSTRONG device or on the SSMS.

Here’s how you can apply SSMS to make caring for your patients easier than ever.

Remotely view patient progress and reports

In some use cases, patents take SwallowSTRONG home with them to continue their therapy course between meetings with their speech language pathologist.

With SSMS, after each therapy course, data showing overall patient progress is automatically uploaded to a database that’s accessible to the clinician wherever they can reach the internet. That means that patients and clinicians no longer need to be in the same room for clinicians to see how patients are doing.

Monitor adherence

Therapy can’t work if a patient doesn’t do it. But SSMS allows clinicians to view how regularly patients are performing their prescribed therapy treatment.

Performance data from each therapy session is uploaded to SSMS automatically.

Remotely adjust therapy parameters

With SSMS, clinicians can make adjustments to the therapy remotely, making targets easier or more challenging depending on the situation.

If one patient is performing particularly well on her prescribed targets, and is no longer building strength at that level, a clinician using SSMS will be able to see that. In that situation, it may be appropriate to increase therapy targets, making the therapy more challenging so the patient continues to build strength.

On the flip side, if a patient is having a difficult time with a prescribed therapy, a clinician can adjust therapy targets down, so that that patient doesn’t become discouraged.

Download therapy data for analysis and report writing

Clinicians can evaluate a patient’s treatment simply by downloading all of the available patient data. Track ups and downs, increases in strength, and overall effectiveness of the treatment all through easy-to-read charts and graphs.

Learn more about SSMS and SwallowSTRONG by contacting Swallow Solutions


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