Facial exercise therapy for facial palsy

The effectiveness of facial exercise therapy for facial palsy has been debated.

Researchers at Universidade Estadual de Londrina-UEM, in Brazil, reviewed the evidence.

First, the details.

  • 6 studies of facial exercises to treat facial palsy were included in the review and meta-analysis.
  • The risk of bias in the studies was low.

And, the results.

  • Only 1 study presented sufficient data to perform the meta-analysis.
    • Significant improvement in functionality was found for the facial exercise group.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Facial exercise therapy is effective for facial palsy for… outcome functionality.”

Bell’s palsy, or idiopathic facial paralysis, is a dysfunction of cranial nerve VII (the facial nerve) that results in inability to control facial muscles.

A few years ago, the same researchers reviewed the effects of exercises on Bell’s palsy. They evaluated changes in facial symmetry, synkinesis (involuntary movement of facial muscles that accompanies purposeful movement of some other set of muscles), lip mobility, and physical and social aspects.

At that time they concluded, “Because of the small number of randomized controlled trials, it was not possible to conclude that exercises associated either with mirror or electromyography (EMG) biofeedback were effective.”

Accordingly, they concluded, “The available evidence from randomized controlled trials is not yet strong enough to become integrated into clinical practice.”

On the other hand, MayoClinic.com tells us, “Paralyzed muscles can shrink and shorten, causing permanent contractures. A physical therapist can teach you how to massage and exercise your facial muscles to help prevent this from occurring.”

3/15/11 19:39 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.