Bell’s palsy affects an estimated 30,000 – 40,000 Americans every year, and it is most common in people between the ages of 20 to 40 years, with higher incidences in individuals with diabetes mellitus and pregnant women.
Bell’s palsy involves irritation to the seventh cranial nerve. Facial muscle movements are controlled by this nerve, and when the nerve is irritated, an individual may experience facial weakness or paralysis. In most cases, Bell’s palsy affects only one side of the face.
Some evidence suggests that customized facial exercises can help Bell’s palsy patients improve their facial function.
Bell’s palsy cases vary, but an individual who is dealing with this condition also may experience any of the following problems:
- Cross-wiring of the facial muscles
- Hypertonic (tight) facial muscles
- Facial muscle spasms
For some Bell’s palsy patients, the facial muscles start to make unwanted movements, and these movements must be re-coordinated through retraining. Facial muscles that are “holding other muscles captive” have to be retrained to allow the primary muscles to move properly.
The basic idea behind exercises for Bell’s palsy is to slowly recreate the brain-to-nerve-to-muscle routine. At first, the goal is to regain the capability of doing correct facial muscle movements voluntarily, and a Bell’s palsy patient focuses on specific facial muscle movements. Over time, these facial movements may result in natural facial movements and expressions.
At the Facial Paralysis Institute, we stress the importance of being evaluated by an expert neuromuscular therapist. Each Bell’s palsy and facial paralysis patient is unique and has a different functional profile. Therefore, there is no one physical therapy protocol that works for everyone. Upon evaluation with our expert facial paralysis physical therapists, you will learn the exact exercises that will benefit you the most.
Facial Exercises for Bell’s Palsy: What You Need to Know
Facial exercises help Bell’s palsy patients increase muscle strength and coordination in the face. That way, Bell’s palsy patients can improve their ability to perform the following facial movements:
- Jaw and mouth movements
- Lip closure
- Eye movements
- Facial expressions
- Forehead wrinkling
Facial exercises for Bell’s palsy are personalized to a patient. This ensures a Bell’s palsy patient can perform facial exercises to address areas of the face previously affected by facial paralysis.
A physical therapist teaches a Bell’s palsy patient how to perform facial exercises. Once a Bell’s palsy patient masters these exercises, he or she can perform them at home as part of a regular exercise schedule.
Benefits of Exercises for Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy exercises often play a vital role in the long-term success of a facial paralysis treatment. While there is no high quality evidence to support significant benefit or harm from any physical therapy for idiopathic facial paralysis, there is some evidence that customized facial exercises can help to improve facial function.
While cases vary, you may experience residuals such as: synkinesis, cross-wiring, hypertonic (tight) muscles, and spasms if you have suffered from Bell’s palsy for a longer time period. For some people, the muscles have had time to develop inappropriate movements. These movements must be correctly coordinated through retraining. Muscles that are “holding other muscles captive” have to be retrained in order to allow the primary muscles to move properly.
The basic idea is to slowly recreate the brain-to-nerve-to-muscle routine. At first, the goal is to regain the capability of doing correct movements voluntarily, while mentally focusing on the action. But over a period of time, these movements may finally become automatic, natural movements and expressions. While it is a slow process, the exercises can be very beneficial.
At The Facial Paralysis Institute, we stress the importance of being evaluated by an expert neuromuscular therapist to learn the proper exercises for you. Every Bell’s palsy and facial paralysis patient is unique and has a different functional profile. Therefore, there is no one physical therapy protocol that works for everyone. Upon evaluation with our expert facial paralysis physical therapists, you will learn the exact exercises that will benefit you the most.
Facial Exercises For Bell’s Palsy Recovery
Facial exercises for Bell’s palsy promote brain-to-nerve muscle communication in the face. They are usually simple to complete, and over time, help Bell’s palsy increase strength and improve coordination of facial muscles.
There is no shortage of facial exercises for Bell’s palsy recovery, and these exercises may involve the muscles in the nose, lips and cheeks. Prior to starting a Bell’s palsy recovery exercise routine, a patient should consult with an expert physical therapist.
At The Facial Paralysis Institute, our team understands that no two Bell’s palsy patients are exactly alike. We also recognize that the facial exercises required to help one Bell’s palsy patient may vary from those required for another Bell’s palsy patient. Thus, we tailor each Bell’s palsy recovery facial exercise regimen for his patient. This ensures a Bell’s palsy patient can use specific facial exercises to quickly and safely achieve the best-possible results.
While it is tempting to provide general facial exercises for Bell’s palsy on a website, it is important to understand that exercises done incorrectly or exercises that are not appropriate for your condition can create more problems. Our physical therapist will put together a customized plan based off the impact Bell’s Palsy is having on your face. If you are exercising and strengthening the wrong muscles, it can accentuate the paralysis. Our physical therapist will put together a treatment for your Bell’s palsy.
Are Facial Exercises for Bell’s Palsy Recovery Effective?
Ultimately, facial exercises are crucial to ensure a safe, effective recovery from Bell’s palsy. By working closely with a physical therapist, a Bell’s palsy patient can learn the right exercises to streamline his or her recovery.
The overall effectiveness of facial exercises for Bell’s palsy recovery depends on the patient. If a Bell’s palsy patient follows a physical therapist’s instructions, he or she is better equipped than ever before to optimize the results of facial exercises. Conversely, if a Bell’s palsy patient does not follow a physical therapist’s facial exercise instructions, he or she is unlikely to improve facial muscle strength and coordination.
Can I Exercise When I have Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy symptoms range from mild to severe. As such, if you are dealing with Bell’s palsy, it is important to consult with a doctor before exercising.
At The Facial Paralysis Institute, our team performs a comprehensive Bell’s palsy patient evaluation. This allows us to analyze a Bell’s palsy patient’s symptoms and determine the best way to treat these issues.
Bell’s Palsy Massage
Bell’s palsy massage is sometimes recommended as part of a facial paralysis treatment program. Initially, a massage or physical therapist teaches a patient how to massage for Bell’s palsy. The therapist performs massage therapy for Bell’s palsy and responds to a patient’s concerns and questions. Then, when a patient is comfortable with facial massage for Bell’s palsy, this individual can perform massage techniques outside of a therapist’s office.
Typical Bell’s palsy massage techniques focus on several areas of the face, including:
- Lower Facial Muscles: Mouth exercises often require a patient to grasp the center of the lips with the thumb and index finger, then push the lips toward the face and move the lips into a smile position. This helps a patient strengthen the lower facial muscles and regain the ability to naturally smile, frown, and make other facial expressions.
- Forehead: Massaging the upper portion of the face sometimes helps a Bell’s palsy patient reduce muscle weakness in the forehead.
- Cheeks: Using the fingertips to perform a circular motion around the cheeks may help a Bell’s palsy patient increase muscle movement in the cheeks.
A therapist may request a patient apply moist heat to the face after performing massage therapy for Bell’s palsy. This helps a patient minimize pain associated with inflammation and maximize the effectiveness of Bell’s palsy massage.
For Bell’s palsy patients who are exploring massage therapy, it is critical to meet with the Facial Paralysis Institute team. Patients can then learn about different treatments, as well as evaluate Bell’s palsy massage and other therapy options.
If massage therapy for Bell’s palsy is recommended, a patient receives a custom therapy plan. The patient is given comprehensive massage therapy instructions and can perform various massage techniques in conjunction with a therapist. Once a therapist believes the patient can safely perform massage techniques, the patient is then asked to complete the techniques without assistance.
A Bell’s palsy patient is responsible for following a massage therapy regimen and can reach out to a therapist at any time for extra support. As a Bell’s palsy patient completes massage therapy, the patient’s progress is monitored. If a Bell’s palsy patient discovers massage therapy delivers the desired results, the program remains intact. Or, if massage therapy does not help a patient reduce facial paralysis symptoms, additional therapy options can be explored.
Schedule a Bell’s Palsy Treatment Consultation with the Facial Paralysis Institute
For more information about our customized approach to Bell’s palsy and facial paralysis physical therapy, please contact us today at (310) 657-2203 to schedule a consultation with Beverly Hills Bell’s palsy expert Dr. Azizzadeh.
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