CTAR (Chin Tuck Against Resistance)

Yoon W.L., Khoo JKP, Liow SJR. Chin Tuck Against Resistance (CTAR):  New Method for Enhancing Suprahyoid Muscle Activity Using a Shaker-Type Exercise. Dysphagia (2014) 29: 243-248.

I was beyond excited to pick up my newest edition of the Dysphagia journal. I’ve never said I wasn’t a nerd. There was an article in the journal about chin tuck against resistance. I’ve always used what I call Modified Shaker exercises. My patients are generally elderly. Most have heart conditions or COPD. They are unable to do the Shaker as it was intended.
Most of my patients either use the Neckline Slimmer (available on Amazon) which offers 3 different levels of resistance through springs. They complete exercises exactly as if they were completing the Shaker, but don’t have to lie on the floor and struggle to get up.

This article looked at using Chin Tuck Against Resistance (what I would call a Modified Shaker) to improve activation of the suprahyoids.

Look at patients with dysphagia from Pharyngoesophageal Segment (PES) dysfunction, we look at strengthening the suprahyoid muscles. These muscles assist in hyolaryngeal excursion and therefore play a part in esophageal opening.

CTAR vs Shaker:  Both have a component of isometric versus isokinetic. The isometric portion fo the Shaker is holding the head up for 1 minute with a minute rest x 3 repetitions. The difference is, with CTAR, the patient is holding a 12 cm inflatable rubber ball and performing a chin tuck against it while seated. The Shaker the patient is lying flat on the floor and lifting their head only as if they were looking at their toes.

The isokinetic portion is 30 repetitions of up and down head movement 3 times.

This study used 40 healthy individuals (20 male, 20 female) 21-39 years of age. All participants completed the Shaker and CTAR both isometric and isokinetic as indicated above. Data was collected over one session.

What the researchers found:

CTAR:  The Chin Tuck Against Resistance was less strenuous than the traditional Shaker, with increased sEMG values during isometric and isokinetic movement. There was a significant increase for the isometric portion of the exercise. These patient had greater muscle activation using the rubber ball and a chin tuck!

Effort was required for the chin tuck, but not for the release.  The authors felt is might benefit to have the patient release compression of the ball slowly.

There was greater muscle activation for the isokinetic movement than for the isometric movement during the traditional Shaker. The Shaker also yielded considerable greater effort to lower the head to the mat.

“Clinical trials are now needed, but the CTAR exercises appear effective in exercising the suprahyoid muscles and could achieve therapeutic effects comparable to those of Shaker exercises, with the potential for greater compliance by patients.”

Overall, CTAR was an effective in exercising suprahyoid muscles in healthy participants.

This looks promising in giving us an alternative for our patients for the Shaker exercise!!


Recent and some previous dysphagia literature emphasizes the use of exercise physiology. Researchers such Lazarus et. al, Robbins et.al, Burkhead et. al and Clark have published the need for incorporating exercise physiology into dysphagia therapy. They emphasize the need to understand the muscles involved in the swallowing mechanism, understand their function so that you can exercise those muscles in the manner in which they function for the swallow.

 The best way to work and improve the swallowing function is to swallow. Not only simply swallow, but push the swallow beyond it’s normal capacity. One way to incorporate increasing the load of the swallow is to use the effortful swallow, the masako or the Mendelsohn maneuver. The Shaker is a great load-resistant exercise to increase opening of the UES. These exercises have been researched and shown to be effective. Logmemann credits the research that has been established for the Shaker exercise and the lingual strengthening exercises from Robbins to increase lingual strength, with overall strengthening of the swallow.

 I’ve started an exercise approach to my dysphagia therapy. I started using almost like a “circuit” of swallowing training. I give the patient a list of exercises to complete while in therapy. Depending on what they need to focus their therapy, they complete a circuit of exercises. I use a variety of swallowing exercises including the Mendelsohn maneuver, effortful swallow, lingual resistance exercises, oral manipulation exercises. Most exercises include swallowing as part of the exericise. One of my favorite strengthening exercises is sucking pudding through a straw. I have the patient start with a regular drinking straw and work their way down to using a coffee stirrer. This not only strengthens the tongue, cheeks and lips, it also requires that they swallow. They spend x number of minutes of each exercise.

 Taking an exercise-based approach to swallowing is far superior to simply altering diet consistencies or adding compensatory strategies to each swallow. Rehabilitation should bring about a change to the swallow mechanism. I do not nor will I use compensations or altered diets in my therapy. I may put the patient on an altered diet, but I want to work the system naturally, not with a compensation if I can avoid it! Look to your PT and OT departments. They work the muscles to bring about change and we should be doing the same.

 Logemann, J.A. (2005). The Role of Exercise Programs for Dysphagia Patients. Dysphagia. 20: 139-140.

 Clark, H.M. (2005). Therapeutic exercise in dysphagic manamgent: Philosophies, practices and challenges. Perspectives in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, 24-27.

 Robbins, J.A, Butler, S.G, Daniels S.K., Diez Gross, R., Langmore, S., Lazarus C.L., et al (2008). Swallowing adn dysphagia rehabilitation: Translating principles of neural plasticity into clinically oriented evidence. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 51: S276-S300.

 Burkhead, L.M., Sapienza, C.M., Rosenbek, J.C. (2007). Strength-training exercise in dysphagia rehabilitation: Principles, procedures and directions for future research. Dysphagia, 22:251-265.

 Clark, H.M. (2003). Neuromuscular treatments for speech and swallowing: A tutorial. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 12: 400-415.

 Robbins, J.A., Gangnon, R.E., Theis, S.M., Kays, S.A., Hewitt, A.L. and Hind, J.A. (2005). The effects of lingual exercise on swallowing in older adults. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 52, 1483-1489.

 Lazarus, C., Logemann, J.A., Huang, C.F., and Rademaker, A.W. (2003). Effects of two types of tongue strengthening exercises in young normals. Folia Phoniatrice et Logopaedica, 55, 199-205.

My Patient had Their Modified, Now What Do I Do?

Once upon a time, I worked in a setting and had to send my patients out for the MBSS. Now, I am able to complete my own MBSS. One thing I take into account when I am doing an MBSS for another SLP is making sure they get a complete study. I have actually gone to several CE courses regarding MBSS in the last 2 years. When I say a complete MBSS, I don’t mean that I test 15 different foods using every strategy known to man per spoon, cup, straw, syringe or whatever else I can think of to feed the patient. When I say complete, I mean that I try to find the dysfunction, the abnormality of the swallowing mechanism. I used to get those reports that stated patient so and so aspirated thin liquids with non-functional cough, chin tuck did not eliminate, blah blah blah. That doesn’t tell me WHY the patient is aspirating and what I need to focus my therapy on to STOP the aspiration.

 If you are one of those clinicians that have to send your patient out and rely on another clinician to complete your MBSS there are ways to interpret what the therapist is writing into muscle dysfunction.

 First, let’s look at the oral phase. You have to look at lip closure. You know that if the person drools or has anterior spillage of the bolus, there are probably some labial seal issues, so you are going to work some on that orbiularis oris and labial seal with resistive labial exercises. The tongue has to move the bolus from side to side, recollect the bolus on the tongue and push it back, pushing up against the palate to create pressure to push the bolus. If the patient has poor bolus formation, residue in the sulci, premature spillage, they are probably not getting good bolus formation, they probably have a weak tongue. If there is reported residue on the tongue and/or palate, they probably are not getting enough tongue-palate contact. You are going to work on resistive lingual exercises. Pocketing in the lateral sulci will indicate poor buccal strength, decreased tension. Resistive cheek exercises are a must.

 Premature spillage can indicate that back of the tongue is weak and the tongue is weak and not holding the bolus in a cohesive manner. Again, resistive lingual exercises, Masako, effortful swallow will all focus on the back of the tongue. Pharyngeal residue will always indicate decreased tongue base retraction and may indicate decreased pharyngeal stripping wave. Again, to strengthen that part of the swallow, I use the effortful swallow, large, thick bolus swallows. Penetration/Aspiration is going to indicate poor hyolaryngeal excursion, which can be any of the three areas including anterior motion of the hyoid, laryngeal elevation and hyoid/thyroid approximation or laryngeal closure. There is really quite a bit of information needed here, how long does the closure last, when are they aspirating. However, if all you get is penetration and/or aspiration you know you need to work on airway protection through the effortful swallow, lingual strengthening (it is attached to the hyoid, which is part of the excursion), Mendelsohn Maneuver. You will also have evidence of decreased airway protection through evidence of decreased epiglottic inversion. If you get a report of pyriform sinus residue, there is possibly an issue with Pharyngeal Esophageal Segment (PES/UES) opening. Now, the PES is opened through Hyolaryngeal excursion and the force of the bolus. The bolus is pushed through the oropharyngeal region by pressure of the tongue, so for PES opening issues, I work on lingual strengthening, Shaker, Mendelsohn, effortful swallow and change the bolus size and consistency.

 Many times, I have observed therapists altering patient diets, teaching chin tuck, double swallow, etc. While I agree that we have those patients that diet alterations, compensations are appropriate, we also have those patients that have the potential for rehabilitation that don’t want to look at their lap every time they swallow. I know I wouldn’t want that.

 As therapists, we have to become better at not only investigating and determining the dysfunction of the swallow, but at writing the report so that other clinicians can TREAT the dysphagia. We don’t treat symptoms. I can’t treat aspiration. In fact, many people CAN, in fact have dysphagia without aspiration or penetration. Think of how short a time we have the patient in radiology. Who knows that they weren’t going to aspirate the next bite that we never gave. We can, however, determine that the patient has decreased laryngeal elevation, with or without penetration/aspiration and TREAT that. We can determine that the patient has decreased lingual strength, (which will probably affect a huge portion of the swallow) and TREAT that.

 My modifieds have changed drastically. I don’t test every consistency. I test thin, nectar, honey-if absolutely necessary, pudding and cookie. I’m not looking for every consistency and what they do with it. I’m looking at the dysfunction of the swallowing mechanism. Once we start doing that, we become competent in what we do.