Can I speed up my progress?

It is normal to hope for a quick recovery and to make every effort to speed that up. In the case of nerve damage, the timelines can vary a lot between people. And the key to improving is often counter-intuitive. You need to be patient and do less a lot of the time.

Nerve recovery

There is very little anyone can do to speed up nerve recovery.  The nerve will recover in its own time and speed of recovery will depend on the degree of nerve injury.

The general advice is to eat a balanced diet and try to get plenty of sleep and rest especially in the early days of your recovery.  Drink plenty of fluids and take regular gentle exercise.  Some people believe that taking vitamin supplements, for example, vitamin B 12, may aid nerve recovery.  However, the evidence to support this belief is limited.

Facial expressiveness

Please don’t rush the return of your facial expression.  Trying too hard, too soon to make muscles move inevitably leads to the development of stiff, tight muscles which are unable to move because of loss of elasticity and increases the likelihood of developing synkinesis.

When you see movement returning then the main thing to remember is ‘less is more’.  Low effort, slow, gentle, symmetrical movements are the goals of rehabilitation.  There are no shortcuts in this situation and practicing too much, with too much effort will slow your speed of recovery and increase the likelihood of developing abnormal movement patterns.  Slow and steady wins this race.

Reducing synkinesis

Minimising the development of synkinetic movements is easier than trying to reduce the amount of synkinesis.  Minimising its development is the fastest way of maximising your recovery.  However, it is important to remember that synkinesis is an inevitable part of delayed nerve recovery and can get out of control very easily despite all your best efforts.  Minimising its development will be dependent on the careful introduction of movement exercises (less is more), and diligence with relaxation and muscle releases.  Do not feel that you have done anything wrong if the synkinesis overcomes all your best attempts at trying to minimise its invasiveness.

Many people may have been living with their facial palsy for a number of months or even years without the benefit of accessing help.  If you fall into this group or have simply switched from no synkinesis to quite strong synkinesis, then you may have quite noticeable synkinesis affecting many expressions and many different facial muscles.

One way of speeding up the control of synkinesis under these circumstances is to ask for a referral to a clinician who is experienced in treating synkinesis with Botulinum Toxin injections to the affected muscles.  This can have a rapid effect in controlling synkinetic movement, reducing muscle tension and relieving pain caused by muscle tightness.  It is not a stand-alone treatment and should be considered an adjunct to your rehabilitation programme, not an alternative.

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