The goal of any Multiple Sclerosis rehab program should be to help the patient maintain or even improve their current function. The effectiveness of any MS rehab treatment is often dependant on what stage the disease is in when the rehab begins. But one form of MS rehab that can provide benefit at any stage of disease progress is Speech/Language rehabilitation.

It is usually done by a Speech/Language Therapist or Pathologist, or an SLP. The role of the SLP in MS rehab is to first evaluate, then treat problems with speech, swallowing, cognitive problems, perception, thinking, memory, and even finding the right words to use when MS lesions flare up. So it is more than just learning how to talk better.


Speech/Language MS rehab helps problems with swallowing


When the disease affects the muscles in the neck, throat, larynx, lips, jaws, tongue, and cheek areas, it’s easy to imagine how the ability to swallow may become difficult or painful. In MS rehab focused on dysphasia (difficulty in swallowing food or liquids) SLPs help patients overcome these difficulties with specific swallowing treatments.

The simplest of these is exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles that help people swallow. Believe it or not, there are three phases to the act of swallowing. There is the oral phase, the pharyngeal phase, and the esophageal phase. Each involves a different set of muscles and there are exercises in MS rehab designed to strengthen all of them. It is easily seen how specialized just this one phase of MS rehabilitation requires a great degree of knowledge and training. And it is also easy to see just how important the SLP may become to the patient undergoing MS rehab. Swallowing is a simple act we all take for granted. But when it suddenly becomes difficult or impossible it can literally change your life.

There are also certain postures or positions that are taught to promote more effective swallowing and ways to change or modify the texture of the food before eaten to make swallowing easier.  The treatment of dysphasia is highly individualized and it is the job of the SLP to customize the MS rehab program to each patient.


Problems with speech


Dysarthria, a motor speech disorder, is commonly experienced by some people who have MS.  Again the SLP will customize the Multiple Sclerosis rehab to the problem experienced by the individual patient.  It may be slurring of speech, inappropriate emphasis on the wrong syllables or words, or loudness at the wrong times.  The extent of the problem depends on where the nervous system damage from the MS takes place.

Sometimes the SLP will help the patient practice speech cadence, breathing while speaking and even range of motion exercises that coordinate the muscles that coordinate the speech/saliva control. When the damage caused is severe, the MS rehab may involve teaching alternate means to communicate like gestures and sign language.  Even computer-assisted speaking is now possible.