1. Don’t Panic About Muscle Atrophy
In general, muscle atrophy is not a worry with Bell’s palsy. Since the facial paralysis symptoms resolve within several weeks for the majority of those stricken with this disorder, the muscles usually aren’t paralyzed long enough to atrophy. Keeping your mental stress and physical stress to a minimum during those few weeks will provide the best defense for your body, letting it recover naturally.
2. Be Proactive If It Makes You Feel Better
The facial nerve, known as cranial nerve VII, simply needs time to heal within the first few weeks of symptoms, but many people choose to seek out additional therapeutic help with facial exercises. You might see a term called facial retraining in some of the literature or online. In general, facial retraining consists of exercises to strengthen the facial muscles. It is best started once some of the neuromuscular activity has been recovered.
3. Consult a Qualified Physical Therapist
Certain physical therapists are specially qualified to retrain the facial muscles in particular. They are familiar with Bell’s palsy and longer-term conditions that cause facial paralysis and can prescribe the right exercises to help. These experts can also let you know what movement of the face might hinder recovery, as well. Ask your doctor for a referral to a local qualified physical therapist near you if he or she suggests physical therapy as part of your recovery.
4. Avoid Decompression Surgery
You may hear the term “decompression surgery” mentioned as you research Bell’s palsy, but don’t consider this to be a reasonable treatment for this condition. Studies by neurologists have found that the risks, which include permanent hearing loss, outweigh the benefits of this type of surgery for Bell’s palsy patients. Remember that Bell’s palsy is most often a temporary condition that rarely calls for rash interventions. In the vast majority of cases, the condition resolves itself. For most people, this takes a matter of weeks, but for others it can take up to 6 months for the worst of the symptoms to recede. Surgery, except when recommended by your medical team in the most severe of cases, should not be a treatment to consider.