Bell’s palsy is a condition in which the muscles on one side of your face become weak or paralyzed. It affects only one side of the face at a time, causing it to droop or become stiff on that side.
It’s caused by some kind of trauma to the seventh cranial nerve. This is also called the “facial nerve.” Bell’s palsy can happen to anyone. But it seems to occur more often in people who have diabetes or are recovering from viral infections.
Things to do in the first 6 weeks:
Massage the face with strokes towards the ear.
- Support the cheek with the hand whilst talking – this will make the B and P sounds clearer. While on the phone for example, you may want to press your hand against your cheek, thereby mimicking the tension that would normally be in your muscles.
- Take care to keep the affected side of the mouth clean. Lodged food, lack of saliva and taste to that side of the mouth can cause problems. You may want to use a mouthwash. Try to chew on both sides of the mouth taking care not to bite your tongue or cheek.
- Try not to increase movement on the good side of the face.
- If necessary use a straw to drink. Try to put it to the centre of the mouth, completing the lip seal with finger pressure.
- Take plenty of rest when you feel tired. The sooner your body fights off the virus the quicker things can start to recover.
- Take good care of the eye, it cannot blink, close or water properly, and it is vulnerable to damage. Use eye drops, tape the eye closed at night or whenever it feels sore, and protect it from draughts by wearing glasses. You may need to wear dark glasses when in bright light or sunlight for eye protection. Get professional help if ever the eye feels sore.
Exercises following Bell’s Palsy
Do not begin any exercises for the face until there are visible signs that the nerve is sending signals to the muscles.
However, it is safe to start some gentle massage:
Using your fingers, massage and gently stretch the skin from the corner of your mouth towards the ear and then down to the jaw bone in a circular pattern
Do the same circular pattern on your chin and forehead.
With your finger (make-up brush / ice cube) brush forehead in an upward direction towards the hairline, 2 – 3 times. Do the same with the cheek area, or try gentle tapping on the skin with your fingertips.
Preferably do the exercises in front of a mirror and concentrate on which muscles are trying to work.
If the ‘good’ side overworks or movements become too exaggerated, then stop and make the movements smaller.
Exercise in short sessions but repeat the routine 2 – 3 times a day.
Quality important than quantity.
- Wrinkle forehead into a frown
- Close eyes slowly
- Gently wink with one eye. Repeat with other
- Wrinkle up nose as if you have smelt something horrible
- Open mouth wide as if to say “ahh”
- Pucker lips and push forwards as if to say “ooo”
- Smile without showing teeth; then smile showing teeth
- Puff cheeks out with air – hold lips shut so that no air escapes. Hold for 3 – 5 seconds
- Compress lips together
- Practice reading / speaking out loud, carefully sounding out the words
- Don’t chew gum as this exercises the wrong muscles.