Facial Paralysis and Facial Retraining
What is Facial Paralysis?
Some or all muscles on one side of the face cannot move.
What is Facial Retraining?
Facial retraining is a non-surgical approach to rehabilitation of facial paralysis. Patients with facial paralysis learn to re-establish and coordinate the muscles of the face through a series of individually-tailored movement patterns. Facial retraining patients work with an occupational therapist that is specially trained in facial retraining techniques, to see the facial muscles that are working the wrong way and teach strategies that will control function as much as possible.
As the paralysis goes away, the facial muscles often move incorrectly. This results in facial tightness, spasm, or unwanted muscle movement, called synkinesis. The goal of facial retraining is to train the facial muscles to once again work in a coordinated and natural way.
Who will benefit from facial retraining?
Patients who are helped from this treatment may have facial paralysis from the causes listed below.
• Bell's Palsy, a disorder caused by viral damage to the seventh (facial) cranial nerve.
• Acoustic Neuroma, a benign tumor that disturbs the auditory or eighth cranial nerve and can impact the facial nerve.
• Traumatic injuries to the facial nerve.
• Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a syndrome caused by viral damage (from a varicella zoster infection) to the seventh (facial) cranial nerve.
• Some forms of congenital facial paralysis.
Facial retraining sessions at UW Health consist of these parts.
• A full evaluation, which includes photographs, videotape, and a review of the facial muscles. Patients are taught about the function of each muscle group. A set of massages and exercises are made for each patient to practice on their own.
• A review of the lessons and work with the therapist to find out which exercises are most helpful.
• A final, broad review of the activities is accompanied by the formulation of a plan for future, at-home work which will be of the greatest help for the patient. Follow-up is decided on an individual basis.
When should I seek help from a facial retraining specialist?
- If you have not fully recovered after three months from the start of your Bell’s palsy or Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
- If you have not fully recovered after six months from your surgery date for your acoustic neuroma or traumatic injury, or as soon as signs of movement become visible.
What should I do from now until my first facial retraining session?
- If your eye is involved, keep your eye well lubricated. Follow-up with an Ophthalmologist.
- Softly and gently stroke the affected side of your face with your fingers to maintain the brain’s sensory awareness of that side
Is there anything I should not do from now until my first facial retraining session?
- Do not try to exercise your face muscles. Your affected side will not move and the unaffected side will take over and you will look more asymmetric.
- Do not chew on your affected side.
- Do not chew gum
- Do not use electrical stimulation; it can interfere badly with nerve recovery.
To make an appointment for an evaluation with a UW Health Facial Retraining Specialist call
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/08/2012
Copyright © 02/08/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7287
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