The Art of Isolating and Relaxing your Facial Muscles
Relaxation and patience play an important role in Facial Palsy recovery. Many of the facial muscles thread into each other and work together. In fact all of the muscles in the body work in pairs, including the facial muscles. As one muscle contracts, the other muscle relaxes or lengthens. The muscle that is contracting is called the agonist and the muscle that is relaxing or lengthening is called the antagonist.
Both must happen to complete a movement or expression.
More On Antagonistic Muscle Pairs
Lets use the example of Smiling
There are two zygomaticus muscles that allow you to smile when they contract. The main part of both muscles is right up in the cheek where the cheek bulges when you smile. We use these muscles particularly when we do a full or big smile.
The depressor anguli oris must relax in order to complete the smile. When it doesn't, the zygomaticus muscles are unable to complete the job and the muscles around it jump in to help.
And voila, synkinesis patterns develop.
Keep reading for practices to relax and release the muscles of the face and neck.
Benefits of Warm Compresses During Facial Palsy
Facial paralysis also impacts slow lymphatic drainage and poor circulation to the facial muscles. During this stage facial muscles are highly prone to develop tightness, tenderness and muscle atrophy if the paralysis lasts for a longer time.
Application of warm compresses is a great way to boost the circulation and helps the paralyzed facial muscles to rejuvenate. In the acute phase of bell’s palsy when your nerve is recovering, a warm compress creates an environment for better healing of the nerve.
Here are benefits of applying warm compresses to the facial muscles:
* It promotes circulation. The combination of warm steam and an increase in perspiration dilates your blood vessels and increases circulation. This boost of blood flow nourishes your skin and delivers oxygen. The result is relaxed facial muscles.
* It’s soothing. The feeling of warmth on your face is relaxing. You can take this even deeper with the added guidance of intentional relaxation of the muscles. I share this in my video collection.
* It’s affordable and accessible. You don’t need to dish out big bucks at a spa to enjoy the benefits; it can be done at home using items you already have.
* It prevents muscle waste, eases pain and maintains your facial tone.
* Warm compresses help to reduce the swelling on the facial nerve by stimulating lymphatic drainage.
Key things to consider while applying warm compresses:
* Consider applying warmth behind the ear where the nerve damage has happened.
* Relaxing muscles is key in restoring full movement and correcting synkinesis at any stage of recovery.
* Can be used daily.
* Make sure you feel comfortable with it, and it is not burning your skin.
* You can use either a warm compress like microwave heat pack, or simple cloth dipped in hot water.
Massage is recommended to stretch and mobilize facial muscles until the nerve has repaired itself. It is important to promote circulation which will encourage nerve repair. So massage is one of the 1st therapies you can practice. (Facial exercises do not come in until after movement starts returning.)
Facial palsy may cause pain and stiffness as immobilized muscles atrophy from non-use. Muscle atrophy can cause serious movement impairments even after Bell's Palsy subsides.
Facial massage is a great way to help restore feeling to the paralyzed part of the face. You may find it helpful to start with sessions with a professional massage therapist who has experience with facial palsy. You can then continue practicing yourself.
Massage is so important. If you can relax your facial muscles then all activity will come.
Tools for Self Massage
Massage tools such as the Gua Sha are extremely beneficial. I share how to use the Gua Sha specifically for facial palsy in my video collection. They are available for purchase online quite easily. They come in various shapes and stones. I prefer this shape, just get what you are attracted to for the stone.
I can not stress enough to be gentle with your face.
Intentionally Relaxing Involuntary Movements
In order to retrain the neuropathways to proper movement without involuntary responses or synkinesis it is important to intentionally relax the unwanted movements happening during exercises. I guide you through how to do this in my videos.
You can also remember to be aware of and focus on relaxing them throughout everyday activities such as eating.
Mindfully eat on the affected side and try to keep your eye or other involuntary movements to a minimum. I find it helpful to really focus my gaze or blink several times. Finding the right point to press to disable the involuntary movement is quite helpful as well.
Stretching or Lengthening
For the facial muscles specifically I have designed all of the exercises I share in my video collection with a concept I learned from my Osteopath.
Engage or strengthen an area, then immediately follow it with a lengthening exercise.
This will both help prevent synkinesis and help correct it depending on your where you are at on your journey.
The effects also travel unfortunately. The neck is foundational to included in your therapy.
Even if you suffered from facial palsy decades ago.
The shoulder and arm of the affected side can be affected as well!
Take heart, the exercises are kept short and sweet so they are doable when you need them.
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