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What Is Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT)?

Respiratory muscle training is a treatment for some voice and speech disorders as well as dysphagia - a term used to describe swallowing disorders. Muscles for breathing can be weakened by acute and chronic conditions, disease, and medical procedures like surgery. Respiratory weakness can impact health and ability to participate in daily activities of all sorts, including swallowing and speech production.

Respiratory muscle training is an exercise program that uses a small handheld device that a person forcefully exhales through. It is a home-based treatment to strengthen respiratory muscles, swallowing muscles, cough strength, or voice. Regular speech therapy sessions are needed to make sure that the treatment is working as expected and to continue the treatment safely and effectively. 

Who Benefits From RMT?

Children and adults with dysphagia resulting from weakness, respiratory weakness resulting in reduced cough strength or voice output can benefit from RMT. Working with their care team, they will follow a treatment plan that includes blowing through a hand-held device and regular speech therapy sessions.  

How RMT Helps

Respiratory muscle training strengthens breathing muscles and muscles in the head and neck to make improvements in swallowing, speaking, voice, and cough - an important lung defense.

Our speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, work with you to create an individualized exercise program to improve speech, voice, or swallowing. To make these improvements, you or your child will need to follow the home exercise program as directed by your care team. 

What to Expect with RMT

Based on medical condition and assessment of needs, your care team will work with you on designing an effective treatment plan. Your speech therapist will need an instrumental swallowing evaluation (VFSS or FEES) to gather information necessary to treat dysphagia. Your speech therapist will also measure respiratory strength to calibrate the respiratory muscle training device throughout the care plan to make sure the treatment is progressing as expected.

It is very important to follow the guidance of your speech-language pathologist in consultation with your doctor. Work with your care team to follow the home exercise program at the recommended schedule at home. For example, your care team may provide a tracking log to help you record participation in the exercise program.

It is also very important to attend therapy sessions during this treatment to evaluate the home exercise program as you or your child progress and get stronger. During these sessions, a speech therapist will check in with your child about how the treatment is going at home. Family participation and support is important and helps people adhere to the exercise program. The speech therapist will measure response to treatment and work with you to update the home program as you or your child gets stronger.