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Multiple Myeloma Side Effects Dysphagia aka Difficulty Swallowing

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“Oncologic treatments, such as curative radiotherapy and chemoradiation, for head and neck (MM) cancer can cause long-term swallowing impairments (side effects – dysphagia)

I am a long-term multiple myeloma (MM) survivor. Two weeks after my original diagnosis of multiple myeloma, I underwent radiation therapy to my neck to zap a plasmacytoma (in early 1994). This radiation caused a series of short, long-term and late stage side effects. Xerostoma and dysphagia are two of long term side effects.

The purpose of this post is to educate readers about both dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) as well as the therapy that I have adopted called “shaker” exercise.

A little backgroud about dysphagia. I came to learn about this health challenge in a roundabout way. While talking to an old friend about the reason for his father living with a feeding-tube I discovered both the term “dyphagia” as well as the therapy called the “shaker exercise.” Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a short video of someone doing the shaker exercise.

My friend’s father developed dysphagia from neck surgery that the dad had undergone years before. I was developing dysphagia from local radiation that I had undergone several years previously. My point is that dysphagia happens for many reasons to people at almost any age.

When I began doing sit-ups with my head and neck (the shaker exercise) I could barely do more than a dozen at a time. My neck muscles had atrophied and been weakening for years at that point.

After doing neck sit-ups for the past half-dozen or so years now, I can complete 50 or so shaker exercises in several different positions. For the record, I don’t know if strengthing several different neck muscles helps my upper esophageal sphincter. But I can swallow all normal foods now. I admit that I always have a glass of liquid at the ready whenever I eat…anything.

But I highly recommend the shaker exercise for all who live with dysphagia.

To ask a question about this post, scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thank you,,

David Emerson

  • Multiple Myeloma Survivor
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:

Pathophysiology of Radiation-Induced Dysphagia in Head and Neck Cancer.

“Oncologic treatments, such as curative radiotherapy and chemoradiation, for head and neck cancer can cause long-term swallowing impairments (dysphagia) that negatively impact quality of life. Radiation-induced dysphagia comprised a broad spectrum of structural, mechanical, and neurologic deficits. An understanding of the biomolecular effects of radiation on the time course of wound healing and underlying morphological tissue responses that precede radiation damage will improve options available for dysphagia treatment…”

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

Oropharyngeal dysphagia arises from abnormalities of muscles, nerves or structures of the oral cavity, pharynx, and upper esophageal sphincter…

Dysphagia is a symptom of many different causes, which can usually be elicited by a careful history by the treating physician. A formal oropharyngeal dysphagia evaluation is performed by a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist.[4]…”

A Randomized Study Comparing the Shaker Exercise with Traditional Therapy: A Preliminary Study

“Seven institutions participated in this small clinical trial that included 19 patients who exhibited oropharyngeal dysphagia on videofluorography (VFG) involving the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) and who had a 3-month history of aspiration. All patients were randomized to either traditional swallowing therapy or the Shaker exercise for 6 weeks…

There was significantly less aspiration post-therapy in patients in the Shaker group. Residue in the various oral and pharyngeal locations did not differ between the groups. With traditional therapy, there were several significant increases from pre- to post-therapy, including superior laryngeal movement and superior hyoid movement on 3-ml pudding swallows and anterior laryngeal movement on 3-ml liquid boluses, indicating significant improvement in swallowing physiology. After both types of therapy there is a significant increase in UES opening width on 3-ml paste swallows…

Effects of the head lift exercise on the swallow function: a systematic review.

“Ageing is associated with modifications in upper oesophageal sphincter function that may be deleterious to deglutition. The head lift exercise (Shaker exercise) is a head-raising work out aiming to improve the opening of this segment, and ultimately to reduce aspiration..

Further studies including control groups and accounting for potential confounders are needed for a sound assessment of the effectiveness of this technique. The data on the functional results are, however, promising for dysphagia interventions.”


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