Respiratory Muscle Training

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When your breathing muscles are weakened from disease or surgery, it can have a devastating impact on daily life. Impaired breathing may hamper your ability to be physically active and may make walking, climbing stairs, and even sleeping difficult. Speech and swallowing can also be affected. Respiratory muscle training (RMT) strengthens your respiratory muscles and improves your ability to perform these activities.

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Strength Training for Your Respiratory Muscles

Conditions Treated
Duke speech pathologists offer RMT to strengthen breathing muscles weakened by:

Respiratory muscle training is also used to speed ventilator weaning and strengthen breathing muscles following tracheostomy. In addition to increasing respiratory muscle strength, respiratory muscle training can also help improve speaking, swallowing, and coughing, which use related muscles.

Personalized Treatment Plans
Our speech pathologists evaluate your condition and design a treatment plan that’s right for you. When appropriate, we can combine respiratory muscle training with traditional communication and swallowing therapies to ensure we provide you with the most complete care for your condition. With our intervention and guidance, you will strengthen your respiratory muscles and improve your breathing.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Inspiratory Muscle Training

A small, handheld device provides resistance against inhalation. You inhale forcefully with the device in your mouth. Inspiratory muscle training, or IMT, is individualized to your current inspiratory strength and overall medical condition. The frequency of training, number of repetitions, and amount of resistance are adjusted as needed. 

Expiratory Muscle Training

A small, handheld device provides resistance against exhalation. You exhale forcefully into the device. As with IMT, expiratory muscle training, or EMT, is individualized to your current expiratory strength and overall medical condition. The frequency of training, number of repetitions, and amount of resistance are adjusted as needed.

Speech and/or Swallowing Therapy

We may recommend additional speech therapy and/or swallowing exercises to meet your specific needs.

Education and Counseling

We work closely with you to develop a plan that addresses your specific concerns, and we adapt the treatment plan based on your feedback.


Comprehensive Communication Evaluation

Speech, language, and cognition are tested with a physical examination, questionnaires, practical and functional information gathering, and standardized testing based on your individual needs.

Respiratory Pressure Manometry

Maximum inspiratory (breathing in) and expiratory (breathing out) pressures are tested by blowing and sucking into a handheld device.

Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study

Video X-rays show your mouth, throat, and upper esophagus as you swallow foods and drinks of different textures and consistencies, mixed with barium (a liquid visible on X-rays). This test looks at your swallowing process, indicates whether food or liquid is entering your airway (aspiration), determines the types of food and liquid that are safe for you to swallow, and identifies any modifications in position or food consistency that may make swallowing safer.

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing

A flexible tube with a small, lighted camera at its tip is passed through your nose to show your throat as you swallow brightly colored foods and liquids. You may be asked to swallow in different positions, such as tilting your head or tucking your chin, to see which work best.

Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals

Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 10 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2024–2025.

This page was medically reviewed on 07/11/2022 by