Background: Critically compromised by upper airway anatomical impaired properties, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be categorized into different phenotypic traits, mainly including oropharyngeal muscle dysfunction. The upper airway muscle strength training was targeted on oropharyngeal muscle dysfunction by re-educating the oropharyngeal muscles to maintain the upper airway patency. OSA was characterized with multilevel collapsibility of the upper airway; however, the programs are still inconsistent and the effects are unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a comprehensive physical therapy on OSA. Methods: Fifteen subjects with newly diagnosed moderate or severe OSA (AHI ≥ 15) were randomized into intervention and control groups. The intervention group underwent a 12-week-intervention of hospital based physical therapy, while the control group was kept on waiting for 12 weeks. Polysomnography (PSG) data, oropharyngeal and respiratory muscle performance were measured before and after intervention. Results: In intervention group (n = 8), AHI was significantly improved (from 46.96 ± 19.45 to 32.78 ± 10.78 events/h, p = 0.017); in control group (n = 7), AHI was significantly increased (from 35.77 ± 17.49 to 42.96 ± 17.32 events/h, p = 0.043). While the control group remained no change between pre- and post- intervention, the intervention group demonstrated that other PSG outcomes significantly improved, including arousal index (46.04 ± 18.9 versus 32.98 ± 8.35/h), mean SpO2 (92.88 ± 2.1 versus 94.13 ± 1.46%), and oxygen desaturation index (ODI) (31.13 ± 19.48 versus 20.57 ± 7.83/h). Conclusion: This comprehensive physical therapy can be prescribed for the significant clinical improvement on sleep apnea for the patients with moderate and severe OSA.
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