Association of Neck Range of Motion and Skin Caliper Measures on Dysphagia Outcomes in Head and Neck Cancer and Effects of Neck Stretches and Swallowing Exercises

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To date, there is a paucity of information in the literature regarding the association between cervical range of motion (CROM) and skin caliper measures (SCM) and swallowing outcomes in post-RT individuals with head and neck cancer. Also lacking in the literature are reports of the effect of swallowing exercises and neck stretches on changes in CROM and SCM and their associations with swallowing outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the associations between CROM and SCM before initiation of a neck stretching and swallowing exercise program and to determine if 12 weeks of twice daily practice changes in CROM and SCM were associated with changes in swallowing outcomes in a cohort of 119 head and neck cancer survivors. Primary results revealed that at baseline, greater right and left CROM were associated with lower penetration aspiration scale (PAS) scores (r = - 0.321, p = < 0.001; r = - 0.203, p = 0.026, respectively). Improved skin pliability revealed lower PAS scores (r = - 0.210, p = 0.022). After 12 weeks, there were no significant correlations between changes in CROM and SCM and PAS scores. Changes in left CROM and CROM extension had positive associations with the Head and Neck Cancer Inventory eating score (r = 0.210, p = 0.026; r = 0.245, p = 0.009, respectively). Findings appear to indicate that any improvement was not associated with changes in swallowing outcomes. Head and neck cancer survivors may perceive improved diet and swallowing skills through exercise, with respect to improved CROM extension.

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ePub ahead of print