How can an SLP help my chronic cough?
Updated: Jun 17
It might come as a surprise to learn that a speech pathologist can help you with your chronic cough – so read on if you’re curious to know more about what we do in this realm of practice.
Speech-Language Pathologists are highly trained in the anatomy and physiology of the head and neck, including detailed knowledge of the workings of laryngeal (throat) and respiratory (breathing) function. It follows that SLPs have valuable insight when it comes to chronic cough – as this issue is closely aligned with many other functions of the body that we are expert in, specifically swallowing and voice use.
Current practice in Canada suggests that the best time to see an SLP is after you’ve had a thorough medical work up to explore whether there is a clear cause for your cough, and after trialling other approaches to the problem such as medications. There may however be an argument to see an SLP much earlier in the process of trying to fix the cough.
What can I expect at an initial visit?
At Speechease, SLPs will use a “whole picture” approach to your first assessment visit. You may expect to have a detailed history taken regarding your health, and questions about your life, including details about your work and home environment, family, emotional and mental health. All of these questions serve to inform our approach in treating your chronic cough.
It may be helpful to bring along a written summary of your health issues and diagnoses as well as a list of any medications you’re currently on to the visit.
You may also have a full assessment of your voice, palpation of your head and neck, analysis of your breathing and review of your posture. Diagnostic therapy may be utilized to scan for possible methods that would be useful in your treatment.
What treatment should I expect?
This can be difficult to answer generally, as every person is unique in their presentation and a good SLP will aim to tailor their treatment for every client they see.
However, you may receive any of the following:
Detailed advice on modifying your environment to reduce potential cough triggers
Breath work; strategies to desensitise the throat and calm hyper-responsivity
Voice therapy to encourage optimal function of the larynx and restore optimal physiology
Manual therapy to the head, neck and upper body to reduce muscle tension
Counselling and support focused on reducing life stressors and empowering the client to take charge of their body and their health.
Treatment course is variable. Some people find resolve after a couple of sessions, for others it may need a longer time period.
Sometimes, it might be determined that further medical assessment or treatment is needed to assist with resolving your cough. In this case an experienced SLP can direct you to the doctors or other healthcare professionals who can help, and advocate for you to get certain treatments.
What evidence is there for this treatment?
We’re glad you’ve asked! Please check our reference list, below. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us; you can find our contact information here.
Carroll, T. (2019) The Speech-Language Pathologist’s role in Chronic Cough. Chronic Cough. San Diego, Plural Publishing Inc.
Chamberlain Mitchell, S. A. et al (2017) Physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy intervention for patients with refractory chronic cough: A multicentre randomised control trial. Thorax, 72(2), 129–136
Hutton, L. et al (2018) Patient-Reported Variables associated with the success of behavioural intervention for patients with chronic cough. UMCUR Presentation. Available online: https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1964&context=umcur
Siciliano, A. (2017) Chronic Refractory Cough: A Case Study. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups SIG 3, Vol. 2(Part 2)
Slovarp, L. & Vertigan, A. (2019) When the coughing won’t stop. The ASHA Leader. Available online: https://leader.pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/leader.FTR2.24112019.50