Facial retraining is a non-surgical approach to rehabilitation of facial paralysis. Patients with facial paralysis learn to re-establish and/or re-coordinate the muscles of the face through a series of individually-tailored movement patterns. Facial retraining patients work with an occupational therapist specifically trained in facial retraining techniques, to identify the facial muscles that are functioning incorrectly and teach strategies that will normalize function as much as possible.
Who will benefit from facial retraining?
Patients who will benefit from this therapy may have facial paralysis from the following causes:
- 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
- Traumatic injuries to the facial nerve
- Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
- Some forms of congenital facial paralysis
Initially, with facial paralysis, the muscles on the affected side of the face become paralyzed and are unable to move. As paralysis subsides, the facial muscles often behave incorrectly, resulting in facial tightness, spasm or unwanted muscle movement, called synkinesis. The goal of facial retraining sessions is to train the facial muscles to once again work in the coordinated manner to which the patient is accustomed.
Facial retraining sessions consist of the following elements:
- A comprehensive evaluation, which includes photographs, videotape and a review of the facial muscles. Patients are taught about the function of each individual muscle group and a set of individually-tailored massages and exercises are developed to practice on their own.
- A review of the aforementioned lessons and work with the therapist to determine which exercises are most effective.
- A final, extensive review of the activities is accompanied by the formulation of a plan for future, at-home work with which the patient is comfortable. Follow-up is determined on an individual basis.