Facial Neuromuscular Retraining - How Does It Work?

By Athlete's Care on October 07, 2020

The musculo-skeletal conditions that our Toronto physiotherapists and chiropractors treat run the gamut literally from head to toe. Facial paralysis is a condition that can be treated, depending on the severity and the cause. It’s an interesting and very specialized area of physical therapy

What Is Neuromuscular Retraining?

Neuromuscular retraining is a highly specialized therapeutic technique that helps people with facial paralysis to – as the name implies – retrain the muscles, and regain functionality. Facial paralysis can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Trauma to the head or neck;
  • Bell’s palsy, Lyme disease and other conditions;
  • Inflammation of nerves;
  • Certain types of facial surgery;
  • Head or neck tumours.

All of these causes may result in damage to the facial nerves. What you will notice is a loss of the ability to move the muscles of the face, which can occur in one or both sides. Without the support, the skin will appear to relax or droop, and the affected side may feel weak. In some cases, neuromuscular retraining can help.

A Plan to Retrain the Muscles

The first step in any treatment plan has to be a thorough evaluation. It’s important to pinpoint the specific muscles that feel weak or tight. Then, an individualized plan is developed. It may involve addressing various aspects.

  • Facial symmetry if paralysis occurs only on one side;
  • Depending on the area, eye care may be affected;
  • Retraining the muscles through specialized exercises.

Interestingly, neuromuscular retraining is sometimes called mime therapy, because it uses emotional input from patients to improve movement. Instead of concentrating on the muscles needed to smile, patients are taught to think of something that makes them happy – it results in more natural movement and appearance.

The Brain Can Keep Learning

For decades, conventional medical thought held that the brain completed its development by the time we leave adolescence, and that adult brains were essentially a finished product. It meant that any injuries or damage that occurred after you reach adulthood were permanent.

Neuromuscular retraining is based on newer research that shows the initial assumption was wrong.

  • Studies have shown that when one part of the brain is damaged, another can take over its lost functionality.

It’s known as neuroplasticity, and it is gaining ground in medical research and treatment options.

Our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics are staffed with medical professionals who stay on top of the latest research and developments in the field of musculo-skeletal disorders and treatment. If you suffer from a sports injury or other condition involving the musculo-skeletal system, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Toronto physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics today.