Bell’s palsy is a type of temporary facial paralysis that can affect a person’s daily function, communication with others, self-esteem, and quality of life.
It happens when the nerve that controls movement on one half (usually a vertical half) side of the face becomes inflamed, and it starts with a sudden feeling of weakness or paralysis on 1 side of the face.
Bell’s palsy is a type of temporary facial paralysis that can affect a person’s daily function, communication with others, self-esteem, and quality of life. It occurs when the nerve that controls movement on vertical half of one side of the face becomes inflamed.
Unfortunately, Bell's palsy tends to happen very suddenly without warning, causing varying degrees of facial weakness, but begins to recover naturally.
In 70% of cases, patients with complete facial paralysis (and 94% of patients with partial paralysis) and recover within 6 months. Unfortunately, the 30% of patients do not recover completely.
Although the cause of Bell’s palsy remains unclear, it is thought that some cases might be caused by the herpes virus.
Other risk factors include:
Facial weakness or paralysis also may be caused by several other conditions including
Bell’s palsy usually begins with a sudden weakness on vertical half of one side of your face or a sudden feeling that you can’t move the vertical half of one side of your face.
Bell’s palsy can worsen quickly. Other symptoms may include:
Diagnosis of Bell’s palsy will often involve your doctor observing your facial movements such as
The examining physician may additionally recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for an individual with facial weakness or paralysis to rule out more serious conditions such as
Once testing has ruled out other possible conditions, the physician will likely diagnose Bell’s palsy, and recommend treatment by a physiotherapist.
Patients who are diagnosed with Bell’s palsy often receive a course of steroid medication to reduce the swelling around the nerve that controls the movement of the face. In some cases, individuals are given an antiviral medication as well. Your physician will provide a referral for physical therapy, or you can request for a physiotherapy referral.
In the first couple of days to a week after symptoms start, our senior physiotherapist will evaluate your condition, including:
They will also immediately:
The first priority is to protect your eye. The inability to completely and quickly close your eye makes the eye vulnerable to injury from dryness and debris. Simple debris can scratch the cornea—the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and front chamber of the eye—and could permanently harm your vision.
Our senior physiotherapist will immediately show you how to protect your eye, such as:
If you have partial facial movement, your therapist will teach you a few general facial exercises to do at home. These exercises will help you learn to move the weak side of your face and help you use both sides of your face together. One of the exercises is a gentle blowing action through your lips.
Our senior physiotherapists will help you regain the healthy pattern of movements that you need for facial expressions and function. Recovery can be challenging because:
We will be your coach throughout this challenging time, guiding you through special exercises that are designed to help you relearn facial movements based on your particular movement problems.
Your exercises may change over the course of recovery:
"Initiation" exercises. In the early stages, when you might have difficulty producing any facial movement at all, we will teach you exercises that cause ("initiate") facial movement. We will show you how to position your face to make it easier to move (called "assisted range of motion") or how to "trigger" the facial muscles to do what you want them to do.
"Facilitation" exercises. Once you're able to initiate movement of the facial muscles, we will design exercises to increase the activity of the muscles, strengthen the muscles, and improve your ability to use the muscles for longer periods of time ("facilitate" muscle activity).
Movement control exercises. We will design exercises to:
To work on coordinating your facial muscles, you'll need to have a sufficient level of activation of facial muscles first. Your therapist will determine when you're ready.
Relaxation.During recovery, you might have facial spasms or twitches. We will design exercises to reduce this unwanted muscle activity. We will teach you how to recognize when you are activating the facial muscle and when the muscle is at rest. By learning to contract the facial muscle forcefully and then stop, you will be able to relax your facial muscles at will and decrease twitches and spasms.
Some people might have greater difficulty moving their face after a period of improvement in facial movement, which can make them worry that the facial paralysis is returning. However, actual recurrence of facial paralysis of the Bell Palsy type is uncommon.
New difficulty in moving the face is more likely the result of increasing the strength of the facial muscles without improving the ability to coordinate and control the movement. To keep this from happening, our senior physiotherapist will show you what facial movements you should avoid during recovery. For instance, the following might lead to abnormal patterns of facial muscle use:
We will coach you to use your face as naturally as possible, without trying to restrict facial expressions because they look "different."