Synkinesis Caused by Bell’s Palsy

What is Synkinesis?

Synkinesis is where you develop involuntary movements in your face, for example your eye closing when you smile.

Why does Synkinesis Develop?

During the healing process of Bells Palsy the insulation around the nerves has been damaged and has become thin. Therefore as nerve signals, which are electrical impulses, start to come back these impulses can leak out and start to stimulate other branches of the facial nerve – and therefore trigger movement in mother muscles. The brain is a very fast learner and it starts to maps these extra signals – thinking they are correct it then actually allows these pathways to develop so that they become established even when the insulation around the nerve has recovered. This leads to a permanent association between these two areas that should normally move independently.

How do I stop Synkinesis?

It is important to try and stop Synkinesis from happening as it is harder to get rid of it once it has developed. When doing your exercises you should try just small movements – don’t over do it. By doing exaggerated movements to try and get some movement in the affected side you bring other muscles into play that should not be used. In my recovery it was seen that intentional movement in my mouth was causing my right eye to move too. See image below:

Example of Synkinesis caused by Bells Palsy recovery
The graph shows involuntary nerve signals going to the eye area when trying to move the mouth.


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