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Synkinesis is a complication that develops after a long recovery from Bell’s palsy. It manifests as involuntary movements of facial muscles during speaking, smiling or blinking. In our previous posts, we went into a more detailed explanation of what synkinesis is and what can help you to reduce it.
In this article, we have compiled the suggestions we usually give to those who suffer from synkinesis and would like to do something to reduce it by themselves.
How to reduce synkinesis by yourself. Follow these steps daily and you might start seeing some improvements in a few weeks. Bear in mind that nothing can change overnight. You will need time. It will not bring you the same results as a proper rehabilitation program, but it can be a good start and can lead to some improvements. You can do neurological tests once per week to track your progress.
- Spend time on conscious facial relaxation
Relaxation is the best remedy for synkinesis. When your facial muscles are tensed up, synkinesis can become more pronounced. As simple as it sounds, an easy habit of relaxing your face every day can go a long way in helping you to recover after Bell’s palsy and reduce your synkinesis.
Spend 10-15 minutes, preferably twice a day, just sitting quietly, “listening” to your face. Focus on how each side of your face feels, what differences in contraction levels can you notice, what else feels different. Then, consciously try to relax your face by relaxing your facial muscles. Imagine how one by one they become soft and light. Put some relaxing music in the background and enjoy this process.
Remember this relaxed state, and whenever you feel your facial muscles tensing up, try to bring back that state.
- Do a gentle self-massage
Self-massages are very important. Please pay attention that you do the massages on both the healthy and affected sides. Do not focus only on the affected side. Because it’s very important for your brain to receive symmetrical sensory signals coming from both sides of the face. That way, the brain will be harmonizing the picture of your face.
When you are recovering, the “picture” from your affected side is different to your healthy side. The brain just gets stuck with that imbalance. We need to remind your brain that your face is one whole. The signals from both sides should preferably be symmetrical.
Spend another 10 minutes every day on gentle facial massage. The general rule: from the midline to the outward, and from the lower part of the face – upwards. There is no need for any special technique. You can look for any self-massage videos on YouTube if you wish. You do not need to look for massages for Bell’s palsy specifically, those can be too hard on your face. Simply choose whichever fits you best, which makes you feel the most comfortable, the most relaxed. Do it gently as you would do for your beloved little child or a little baby. Apply a few drops of massage oil or massage gel, so you don’t pull your skin unnecessarily.
- Do not force your face into facial expressions
From our point of view, forcing your face into facial expressions will only make things more complicated. By doing that, you will be forcing your muscles into contractions.
As a matter of fact, you will not be forcing your muscles, but you will be forcing your brain. Your muscles are in perfectly working condition. Your nerve has difficulties transferring signals from your brain to the muscles. Forcing your muscles will not solve that problem, it will only make your brain keep on sending over-amplified signals. That is something we definitely want to avoid. Because too many contraction signals in the direction of the facial muscles, would lead to over-contraction, over-amplification of those signals and that will force your face out of control.
- Reduce stress as much as possible and balance your emotions
Stress can affect Bell’s palsy recovery. Constant background stress can keep your facial muscles tensed up throughout the day. This can make your synkinesis worse, as well as lead to contractures and facial pains. That is another reason why spending some time on conscious relaxation of facial muscles and doing self-massage can help you. Those two activities can help you to relax your background stress and in turn, improve your recovery potential.
- It is also good to avoid mirrors
Use mirrors when necessary, but try to avoid looking into it countless times per day to see if there are any improvements. The sooner you stop worrying and waiting for the improvements to happen, the sooner they will appear.
Constantly starring and waiting for improvements can make you stressed and frustrated. Feeling hopeful and positive will be of much better help than any negative emotions. Try to avoid them.
Whatever you do, try to do it on both sides, so your face reacts to whatever procedures you are doing in a symmetrical and well-balanced fashion.
If you are persistent in your efforts and if you succeed to make a CONSTANT conscious facial relaxation into your habit, then within several weeks you will notice that your synkinesis are less pronounced.
These steps can also be applied if you experience the tension of facial muscles, excessive tearing or lack of tears, or most of the other complications and residuals after Bell’s palsy. If you experience facial pains and contractions the advice is very similar, with a few nuances which we cover in another post.
– Alex Pashov
Crystal Touch Bell’s palsy clinic