Bell’s Palsy: Can Physiotherapy Help Prevent Permanent Facial Paralysis?

physiotherapy for bell's palsy kitchener

Do you struggle with Bell’s Palsy? You’re not alone. In fact, we have seen an increased number of clients in the last three years seeking physiotherapy for Bell’s Palsy. The good news is there are simple, effective solutions to help you overcome this challenge. 

Can Physio Help With Facial Paralysis?

Physiotherapy can help with facial paralysis when there is persistent weakness. In a condition like Bell’s Palsy in which the cause of the weakness or paralysis is due to irritation of the facial nerve, facial nerve recovery will provide the most amount of improvement. Paralysis occurs because the nerve is unable to communicate with the muscles to tell the muscles to contract. 

Improvement is often seen in 2-3 weeks after the initial rapid acute onset of facial paralysis. If the muscle strength and muscle function have not fully recovered, or if there are still asymmetrical facial movements, physiotherapy can be helpful to restore the full strength and flexibility of the facial muscles. Just like other muscles in our body, the muscles in our face can exercise too! This can be helpful to get the muscles functioning normally again after the period of disuse that occurs due to the facial nerve problem.

What Kind of Physiotherapy Is Used for Bell’s Palsy?

Physiotherapy can be used in Bell’s palsy to improve facial muscle function. It is warranted in cases where there is persistent muscle weakness. Physiotherapy in Kitchener may involve treatments like massage or stretching in tissues which have lost flexibility from a period of paralysis. It may also include facial retraining exercises to restore normal facial muscle function. This allows patients to be able to express their emotions and feelings with their faces again!

Other physiotherapy modalities like heat or acupuncture can be used to provide blood flow to the area and encourage an optimal healing environment for the nerve to recover and maintain the flexibility and function of facial muscles.

Manual therapy techniques like tapping, vibration, or stroking may be used to facilitate improved muscle contraction or relaxation.

What Is the Fastest Recovery Time for Bell’s Palsy?

The major cause of Bell’s Palsy is believed to be a virus which causes an infection of the facial nerve, causing swelling of the nerve and a reduction in its function. This causes muscle weakness or paralysis. Bell’s Palsy is a self-limiting condition that will see improvement in 2-3 weeks as the nerve recovers, and the muscle function returns. Most patients will see a full recovery in 3-4 months. A small portion of patients may have continued facial asymmetry for longer than this.

What Exercises Are Good for Facial Paralysis?

In the acute stage of Bell’s Palsy (the first 3 weeks), there is no evidence to support using exercise therapy. In cases of persistent asymmetry and muscle weakness, facial exercises can be helpful. These exercises can involve practicing raising your eyebrows, pursing your lips, smiling, puffing out your cheeks, and closing your eyelids. These exercises may be performed in front of a mirror for visual feedback.

Expression exercises can also be used to provide muscle activity in the context of emotion. For example, demonstrating a “surprised” expression involves raising your eyebrows and shaping your mouth in an “O” shape. Expressions like happiness, sadness, and anger can be used to use the facial muscles in different combinations that are more reflective of how we use our facial muscles in everyday life.

What Is the Best Treatment for Bell’s Palsy?

Initial medical management for Bell’s Palsy may include treatments of corticosteroids to reduce swelling, and in some cases, antiviral medications. Eye protection is required for individuals with incomplete eye closure to maintain the health of the eye. Eye protection may include eye patches, the use of eye drops, and/or taping the eye shut when sleeping.

Physiotherapy with a focus on facial retraining exercises is helpful when full facial muscle function has not returned after the acute period. Other treatments like manual therapy, acupuncture, heat or ice could also be used. 

What Are the Signs of Bell’s Palsy Recovery?

Signs that Bell’s palsy is recovering include an increase in function in the muscles that are controlled by the facial nerve. You may see “flickers” of muscle contraction when trying to move the facial muscles. As the recovery continues, the movement will look more and more symmetrical to the other side. Because Bell’s Palsy is a unilateral condition, meaning it only affects one side of the face, we can monitor the recovery progress by comparing it to the unaffected side. 


Booking an appointment at our clinic is the first step toward your recovery. Not only will you have access to a multi-disciplinary team of experienced professionals, but you’ll also receive access to your own personal online video home exercise program. Don’t wait any longer to start seeing the results you deserve. Book your appointment now.

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