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Exercises for recovery

5 April 2023

Everyone wants to be understood. Clear speech is key in many areas of life. It is important in relationships and at work. At any age, struggling with speech problems can be upsetting and may cause patients to become anxious and withdrawn.[i]

Impaired speech can have an effect on a person’s emotional health too.[ii] Feeling misunderstood can be very frustrating and upsetting, and could lead to anxiety and depression. Speech therapy is important in helping patients overcome these challenges and help to ease the mental health problems they cause.

There are many causes for speech problems. Some develop in childhood, and others later on in life. A common cause of speech problems later in life is stroke, which can lead to depression. Speech therapy can be very useful for stroke patients and this may include exercises to strengthen the facial muscles.

There are a number of speech issues which occur after a stroke. These may include:


This affects both speaking and understanding language. Patients struggling with this may have problems finding the right words and place words in the wrong order. They might also have difficulty expressing thoughts, and misunderstand what other people mean.[iii]

Of those who have a stroke, around 25-40% of people experience this. iii


Patients struggling with this problem might slur their words, have poor pitch control, speak quietly, and have an abnormal rhythm and voice. This is caused by the muscles needed for clear speech becoming weaker and may move incorrectly. This might lead to unclear speech that is very hard to understand. iii

To improve this, speech therapists can help patients to:

  • Speak more slowly
  • Speak louder
  • Strengthen mouth muscles
  • Improve enunciation of sounds iii

Apraxia of speech

This affects the coordination of muscles. It has a number of causes, including stroke, injury, and dementia.[iv] Patients who develop this condition are unable to control the muscles in their lips and tongue properly. Because of this, patients have trouble forming letters and words. In some cases, patients may be unable to speak at all. Some simple exercises may help patients produce the oral movements needed for clear speech. iii

Dysarthria and apraxia of speech have different foundations:

  • Dysarthria is caused by weakened muscles
  • Apraxia affects patients’ ability to plan the muscle movements needed for speech iii

Strengthening mouth muscles

Exercising the mouth muscles including the tongue and lips is important for recovery. These exercises aim to improve motor skills and should be practised at home to help improve speech.

There are a number of exercises patients can try. Exercising the tongue is helpful for improving speech. Encourage patients to move and hold the tongue in and out, side to side, and up and down. This helps to strengthen the muscles and coordinate patterns – useful for improving speech.[v]

Strengthening the lips is also important. To exercise the muscles in the lips, suggest that patients practise smiling. Looking in the mirror while they do this will also help to reinforce these movements in the brain. Puckering the lips is another great exercise which helps to improve the motions needed for clear speech. These movements should be repeated and held where possible to strengthen muscles and get them used to these movements. iv

The OraStretch Press Rehab System is also suggested to help people who are recovering from a stroke. It is designed to stretch the jaw, joint, and facial muscles to improve mobility and strength. iv

Physical and emotional recovery

By working to improve patients’ speech abilities, you enable them to communicate clearly with their loved ones and the wider world. This ability to speak, understand and be understood is crucial in improving emotional health after a speech impairment. Helping patients on this road to recovery is rewarding, and providing them with simple exercises to do at home is a useful tool. ii

[i] ASLTIP. The Mental Health Effects of Speech Disorders. (accessed: 27/10/22)

[ii] RCSLT. Talking about mental health:

speech, language, communication and swallowing.—FINAL—May-2020.pdf (accessed: 27/10/22)

[iii] Connected Speech Pathology. 10 Best Stroke Recovery Speech Therapy Exercises. (accessed: 27/10/22)

[iv]ASHA. Apraxia of Speech in Adults. (accessed: 24/11/22)

[v] Flint Rehab. The Best Speech Therapy Exercises to Get Your Voice Back (accessed: 27/10/22)

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