VitalStim, also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), is used to treat both the pediatric and adult population with dysphagia/swallowing disorders. A uniquely certified speech-language pathologist administers NMES in conjunction with oral motor, swallowing, and feeding therapeutic activities in order to improve the swallow function. It is a non-invasive, external electrical stimulation therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration.


Neuromuscular electrical stimulation involves the administration of small, electrical impulses to the swallowing muscles in the throat through electrodes attached to the skin overlying the musculature. Once electrodes are placed and current has been increased to the appropriate level, the therapist begins traditional oral motor, feeding, and swallowing exercises with the patient. The patient exercises the swallowing muscles for periods of up to one hour while receiving concurrent VitalStim therapy.


To be most effective, therapy is recommended a minimum of 2X times a week at a duration of 1 hour; however, research has shown improvement for 1X per week with swallowing exercises to be conducted within the home environment.

Parents/caregivers are encouraged to be involved in therapy for the child to get the most out of the sessions.

To determine the most effective placement of electrodes for therapy, initial evaluation can include a modified barium swallow (MBS) study. This assesses a patient’s oral-pharyngeal stage of the swallow and determines where the breakdown in the swallow occurs (however, therapy can be initiated without one). The swallow study will determine if your child is aspirating (small amount of food or liquid enters the airway during swallowing) or having other swallowing difficulties.

A swallowing evaluation conducted by the therapist to determine what oral motor, feeding, and swallowing techniques should be implemented in conjunction with VitalStim therapy.

In VitalStim therapy, we never forget that a kid is a kid by ensuring therapy is fun, safe, and inviting. Our expectation: life-changing results.

Children Who May Benefit

  • A child who has oral/pharyngeal dysphagia
  • A child who may be tube-dependent for all nutrition
  • A child who has experienced:
    • Stroke
    • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
    • Laryngomalacia
    • Spinal Muscular Atrophy
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Cleft Lip and Palate
    • Down Syndrome
    • Prader-Willi Syndrome
    • Failure to Thrive
    • Bell’s palsy
    • Various Chromosomal Disorders

Possible Signs of Swallowing/Feeding Disorder

  • Spitting out food
  • Refusing to eat
  • Eating very little for a prolonged period of time
  • Frequent coughing or throat clearing during or soon after eating
  • Excessive drooling
  • Food leaking from mouth
  • Refusing to eat certain textures or temperatures of food
  • A “wet” or “gurgly” sounding voice or cry after eating
  • Excessive spitting up or vomiting after eating

Feeding Developmental Milestones

How old is your child (in months)?


Improved Swallow Functioning

Increased Muscle Strength

Accelerated Cortical Organization

Increased Effectiveness in Swallowing Therapy Exercises

Improve Facial Symmetry

Improve Oral Motor Skills

Getting Started With VitalStim Therapy

If you are interested, submit an inquiry below. Our Patient Coordinator will call to help you determine a plan forward.  If you are still unsure, you can call us anytime at (815) 469-1500 for more information.