To recover from synkinesis, you need time
No matter what they may tell you, a quick fix for synkinesis does not exist. Botox does not count, because it is not a fix, but a symptomatic and temporary relief.
During the long recovery period, your facial muscles have developed a “wrong” mimetic pattern. Every time your brain sends imbalanced contraction signals to the facial muscles. This cannot be corrected by any surgical intervention or fixed overnight.
You can compare synkinesis to the flashing disco-lights. No matter which bulbs you put into the light installation, no matter how tightly you wrap them in various garments – the bulbs will flash anyway instead of producing a continuous light. It is because the SIGNALS that arrive to the bulbs are intermittent, and therefore, make the bulbs flash.
Note: This article is also available in a video format in our Bell’s Palsy Video Courses.
To what extent common Bell’s palsy recovery methods can help you with synkinesis?
Let’s take a look at the most common recovery methods and whether they can help with synkinesis. It is important to note that this is our perspective at the clinic, based on our experience and the experience of our patients. If you feel differently about these methods, and you are certain that they will bring the desired results, you are more than welcome to follow them.
Periodic injections of Botox (botulinum toxin) may offer some temporary relief and make synkinesis less pronounced. However, after 3-5 months, when the effect of the toxin wears off, your synkinesis will return. The reason for the return is that Botox will temporarily switch off the facial muscles involved in synkinetic movements, but the signals responsible for synkinesis arriving to the muscles from the brain will remain unchanged. Besides, as every invasive intervention, injections of Botox carry certain risks.
Facial exercises and mime-therapy will “teach” your volitional mimetic centre to suppress – first consciously, and then subconsciously the unwanted synkinetic movements. As a side effect of that, your facial expressions may become “one-sided”, since you will learn to disengage the affected side of your face. You may reduce synkinesis, but at the same time, you will also reduce the involvement of your affected side in the daily facial expressions.
Plastic surgery can balance your face only when it is in a neutral condition (without movements). However, the moment you begin to speak or show some emotions, your face will be off-balance again. So the result is most likely to leave your face asymmetric during speech and facial movements.
How can one reduce synkinesis permanently?
The only way to balance your facial movements effectively is to replace the “wrong” mimetic pattern with the natural one. Synkinesis is a conditioned reflex. To reverse this conditioned reflex, you need a consistent repetition of certain negative feedback, that will help your brain to “unlearn” the habit. You will need to re-learn again the natural way to produce your facial movements and make it your new habit. This process may take anything from 5 to 12 months, depending on your persistence and motivation. There is no other way, unfortunately. At our clinic, we have developed a special program – Neuro-Proprioceptive Rehabilitation, that helps to permanently reduce and in some cases even completely eliminate synkinesis.
If one really wants to get rid of synkinesis for good, he or she must be prepared to work persistently every day for several months, maybe up to a year. Besides, it should not be just a wish, but a burning desire – to improve the quality of facial movements. Motivation is crucial, so one does not get easily discouraged by slow progress.
Meanwhile, take a look at some suggestions on what you can do yourself to help you with synkinesis, or register for our online consultation to have your facial condition and synkinesis analysed by experts.