Facial exercises may facilitate synkinesis.
Facial exercises, that focus on contracting the muscles, making various facial expressions or sounds, can facilitate the formation of synkinesis. This is our opinion, at Crystal Touch clinic, based on our experience and our scientific research on the origins of synkinesis. That is the reason why we do not use facial exercises in our rehabilitation program.
How can facial exercises make synkinesis worse?
To understand how facial exercises may make your synkinesis more pronounced, we first need to take a look at how our brain manages the mimetic signals it sends to form facial expressions.
The two control centres of our brain.
In our brain, we have two centres that manage our facial expressions. One is the limbic system – the factory of emotions. Another one is the voluntary system, the one which produces facial expressions at will. For example, making a fake smile when we have to smile to someone who we actually dislike.
The limbic system
When we are genuinely happy, we produce a genuine smile or any other genuine facial expression and that is produced by the emotional centre of the brain. The limbic system produces signals which are per definition always correct, symmetrical and well-balanced. Because they have been developed by evolution as a communication tool for millions of years.
The volitional system
Our volitional centre, that produces voluntary expressions, is not that finely tuned, not that finely differentiated. It cannot control our expressions as nicely as our limbic system.
When we do various facial exercises, we are actually using only that voluntary centre of the brain. So we are training our brain to over-use and to over-write our emotional expressions. This leads to mimetic amplification, which causes further imbalance in our facial movements.
Facial exercises target only facial muscles, and not the facial nerve
Bell’s palsy affects the facial nerve. The facial muscles and our brain remain healthy and are not injured by Bell’s palsy. So, we do not need to re-learn how to move our face, we know it. The ability to move our face, the core ability of the brain to manage our facial expressions has not been affected because the brain did not sustain any damage. It is only “the wire” that has been damaged. But the source and the muscles, remain fully functional.
So, we do not need to learn how to use our muscles, which is what facial exercises do. Instead, we need to learn how to engage more the limbic system for the production of facial expressions. That is one of the tasks we work on with our patients at the clinic.
– Alex Pashov
Crystal Touch Bell’s palsy clinic