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Facial Palsy: A Ray of Hope

The Affects of Bell's Palsy, Possible Complications and How to Test Your Progress.

You Can Look And Feel Like You Again

Healing From Bell's Palsy

Healing from Bell's Palsy feels like a long slow climb up a mountain.  With few resources to get you up and over into full recovery.  

John's Hopkins explains Bell's palsy as an unexplained episode of facial muscle weakness or paralysis. It begins suddenly and worsens over 48 hours. This condition results from damage to the facial nerve (the 7th cranial nerve). Pain and discomfort usually occur on one side of the face or head. Bell's Palsy can strike anyone at any age.

Bell's Palsy has been said to affect about 40,000 people in the United States every year.  And that was before the spike in the last few years.  

The majority of people with Bell's Palsy, around 85%, will recover completely with time, although the paralysis may last for up to one year in severe cases. However, the remaining 15% will experience some degree of permanent paralysis.

That's what they say but my experience tells me more is possible!

When Bell's Palsy strikes it is devastating.  It is not just half of the face drooping and paralyzed, the nerves are damaged and several things can happen. Taste is dulled and the ability to eat is compromised, things need to be cut into small pieces and it tends to be a messy business.  Speech becomes impaired. The eye does not blink and the vision becomes blurry.  Eye drops are required to keep the eye lubricated and using something at night to keep the eye closed so it can actually rest.  Wind and cold irritate the eye. When the eye does start to create tears they just leak out continuously because the facial nerve also carries nerve impulses to the tear glands, the saliva glands, and the muscles of a small bone in the middle of the ear. 
Symptoms generally start to improve with or without treatment after a few weeks (for the lucky), with recovery of some or all facial function within six months.  In some cases, residual muscle weakness lasts longer or may be permanent.  There is no medical treatment for Bell's Palsy.

Anatomy Review
The facial nerve runs a peculiarly convoluted path from its origins on the brainstem to its final destination in the facial muscles and the tongue. It travels through narrow passageways in the cranium, often sharing space with other cranial nerves. It takes at least three sharp turns to get to its destinations. The narrowest tunnel is the temporal facial canal, which allows only about .66 millimeters of clearance. Understandably, any swelling or irritation to the nerve can compress it here, leading to the risk of demyelination and loss of function.
The branches of the facial nerve emerge behind the ear, anterior to the mastoid process. Any bone spur, inflammation, or irritation to the soft tissues at this emergence site can also put mechanical pressure on the delicate nerve tissue. 

Possible Causes and Treatment Options
Bell’s palsy is a general term that simply describes irritation and or damage to the facial nerve. Finding the source of that damage is important in discerning the best possible treatment options.
Facial nerve irritation is usually brought about by one of two factors: viral infection or bacterial infection. Obviously, these require two quite different treatment strategies, because in addition to taking pressure off the nerve as quickly as possible, it is important to combat whatever pathogens might be attacking the delicate tissue.


Possible Complications

Bell’s Palsy cases vary, but individuals dealing with this condition (such as myself) may also experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Hypertonic (tight) facial muscles they feel rigid and dense and contribute to both facial distortion and synkinesis.  A key therapy is softening these muscles.

  • Facial muscle spasms

  • Facial Synkinesis refers to abnormal regrowth of facial nerve fibers which may result in involuntary (unwanted) contraction of certain muscles during other intended facial movement, and can be thought of as miswiring of the facial muscles.  New research suggests however that synkinesis is caused by incorrect movement patterns learnt by the brain due to constant voluntary attempts to move the affected side during paralysis.  This means that the pattern can be corrected or at least reduced significantly!  By addressing the overactive muscles that are preventing other muscles from working easily together, retraining is possible. 

       Examples of synkinesis include:

  • When you smile, the eye on the affected side may close

  • When you smile, your neck muscles tighten

  • When you blink, or close your eye, the corner of the mouth on the affected side pulls up

  • When you chew, your eye closes


Facial synkinesis may occur in anyone who has a history of facial nerve paralysis, but it is most often seen in patients with delayed recovery of facial nerve function (i.e. greater than 2-3 months).​  If you are experiencing unwanted movements, these movements must be re-coordinated through training. During Bell’s Palsy therapy, facial muscles that are “holding other muscles captive” have to be retrained.

The basic idea behind these facial exercises is to slowly recreate the brain-to-nerve-to-muscle routine.

Synkinesis is addressed in the Rehabilitation with Resistance, Rehabilitation with Release, and Emotional Expression pages and offerings.

Measuring Bell’s Palsy Progress

Recovery after Bell’s palsy can sometimes take a long time.  Keeping track of your recovery progress can be quite difficult, when day to day changes are so incremental that you do not notice them.
Not seeing progress can be depressing and frustrating. For your recovery, it is crucial to stay hopeful and positive regarding your further prospects.
There is a very simple and effective tool you can use at home to keep track of your facial palsy recovery progress. It is referred to as Neurological Tests. Neurological Tests are a series of photos of certain facial expressions.  This tool is a simple visual way to follow your recovery process after Bell’s palsy and to monitor the efficacy of your therapies as well as the duration of achieved results.  
Performed over time, it can help you to see the difference in your facial expressions, understand how your recovery is progressing and where to focus your therapies.  And stay positive.

It is suggested to take your Neurological Tests once every week and compare them from time to time.
In addition to making the photos, you can also observe and record how you were feeling in that week, the amount of stress you had, your mood, exercises, etc., to see if anything might have an effect on your facial expression. In this way, you can also learn what you should avoid in order to aid your recovery.

These were taken after my resting face looked "normal" and most people believe that I have fully recovered.

If you are in the London Ontario Area I highly recommend these therapists:

Kris is the wizard Osteopath that inspired my facial physio routine

Osteopathy: Kris Oliveira 

Acupuncture:  Lisa Kervin

Cranial Sacral:  Susanne Martin

Community Offerings

Welcome to My Monthly Free Healing Circles for Bell's Palsy
The 3rd Tuesday of each month 7:30-9:00pm EST

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Get inspired with ongoing tips and guidance. View all of Nik's Bell's Palsy Youtube videos here. 


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