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Best Exercises for Bell’s Palsy

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

While there’s not a known cause for Bell’s palsy, it affects between 30,000 and 40,000 Americans every year. It can affect anyone, but most people with Bell’s palsy fall between the ages of 20 and 40. Researchers think that it might be caused by a virus, and it is associated with a variety of pre-existing conditions.

Bell’s palsy is the unexpected weakening of the facial nerve or temporary facial paralysis. There is no cure, but most people regain their facial strength and expression between 2 weeks and 6 months after symptoms begin.

During Bell’s palsy, one side of the face becomes weak or paralyzed. To help speed up the recovery process, many people choose to do physical therapy or exercises for Bell’s palsy.

Exercises to Help Bell’s Palsy

Facial exercises and physical therapy for Bell’s palsy help to increase muscle strength and to regain facial coordination from this temporary facial paralysis. Most exercises should be done three or four times a day in short sessions, with up to 30 repetitions per exercise.

Facial Stimulation

Before you begin the facial exercises, it’s important to warm up and stimulate your muscles first.To correctly do these facial exercises, experts suggest sitting in front of a mirror so that you can clearly see your face and watch your muscle movements.

  • Step 1: Begin by trying to move every part of your face slowly and gently.
  • Step 2: Use your fingers to gently lift your eyebrows. One side will lift higher than the other, but don’t apply too much force to the side that is drooping.
  • Step 3: Using your fingers, gently massage the different parts of your face, including your forehead, nose, cheeks, and mouth.

Nose and Cheek Exercises

After warming up, you can work on the area of your cheeks and nose. This area is important since any stiffness or weak muscles in this zone can affect the strength of the entire face as you recover. 

  • Step 1: Using your fingers, gently push up the skin next to your nose on the affected side while trying to wrinkle your nose.
  • Step 2: Try to scrunch up your face, focusing on the cheeks and nose.
  • Step 3: Flare your nostrils and try to take some deep breaths through your nose. You can cover your unaffected nostril to force the affected muscles to work harder.
  • Step 4: Puff up your cheeks and blow the air out. Repeat this 10 times.

Mouth Exercises

The next area that you can work on is your mouth, including your lips and tongue. Many people with Bell’s palsy find it difficult to eat and drink since muscle movements are limited. Some also find that they dribble or aren’t able to control their saliva, which can be stressful.

These exercises for Bell’s palsy can help you to regain better control of your mouth. You can repeat them 30 times each, up to 4 times a day.

  • Step 1: Open your mouth as if you are going to smile and then close it. Then do the opposite and practice frowning.
  • Step 2: Gently pucker your lips and let them relax.
  • Step 3: Try lifting each corner of your mouth individually, one at a time. You can use your fingers to help lift up the affected side.
  • Step 4: Stick out your tongue and then aim it down toward your chin.

Eye Exercises

People with Bell’s palsy may have difficulty closing their affected eye, which can be bothersome and makes it difficult to sleep. These facial exercises help you to regain control and function of the muscles surrounding the eyes.

  • Step 1: Practice raising your eyebrows up and down. You can use your fingers to lift the affected eyebrow. 
  • Step 2: Look down and close your eye while gently massaging the eyelid and eyebrow.
  • Step 3: Alternate opening your eyes wide and then gently squeezing them shut. 

Safety Considerations

Exercises for Bell’s palsy are considered to be quite safe to do at home, unsupervised. However, you shouldn’t overexert yourself or your muscles. Don’t worry about completing all of the exercises if your muscles are telling you to stop.

Also, you don’t want to force the two sides of your face to work against each other. If during your exercises for Bell’s palsy you see that muscles are moving or pulling, you should stop. Relax your muscles and take a rest.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

The Facial Paralysis Institute: “Bell’s Palsy Facial Exercises.”

Florida Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists: “Facial Paralysis due to Peripheral Nerve Injury - SLP evaluation and treatment.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Bell’s Palsy.”

Kaiser Permanente: “Bell’s Palsy.”

Myhealth: “Physiotherapy Management on Bell’s Palsy.”

Milton Keynes University Hospital: “Exercises for Bell’s Palsy.”

The Physio Company: “Bell’s Palsy Exercises.”

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