Facial Nerve Exercises

Woman looking away

Damage to the facial nerve can affect your ability to control facial movement and, therefore, the symmetry of your face, says the Affiliated Otolaryngologisits website. Specific exercises can help retrain the nerve to activate the facial muscles and improve alignment. However, it is important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect damage to this nerve and before beginning any rehabilitation program.

About the Facial Nerve

According to the Affiliated Otolaryngologisits website, your facial nerve controls the movement of all of the muscles in your face. It runs directly from your brain, so conditions that affect the brain--such as tumors and multiple sclerosis--can limit the function of the facial nerve. Viral infections and head injuries can also damage this nerve. Bell's palsy is the term often given to reduced functioning or paralysis of the facial nerve.

Smiling Exercises

One of the most common signs of a damaged facial nerve is sagging on one side of the face--creating a lopsided appearance--and difficulty forming facial expressions, such as smiling, says the Patient UK website. This exercise helps to isolate the muscles that raise the corners of your mouth, and retrain them to lift and lower at the same time. The Bell’s Palsy Association website says to use your fingers to stretch the corners of your mouth into a smile then take your fingers away and see if you can hold the expression. To test your smile muscles even further, raise one corner of your mouth, hold and lower, then repeat on the other side. Do this as many times as you can, preferably in front of a mirror so you can make sure both sides are working equally hard.

Eye Closing Exercise

People with facial paralysis often find it hard to close one or both eyes, which can affect tear production and lead to the open eye becoming dry and irritated, says Healthcommunities.com. Simple, repetitive blinking exercises can help to strengthen the eye muscles and promote tear production. The Bell’s Palsy Association website also recommends placing your finger over the eye that has trouble closing then using a finger from your other hand to gently press up and along the eyebrow of the eye you are holding closed. This will help to relax the eyelid, which is likely to be tense from staying open for long periods. Remove your finger and try to keep both eyes three-quarters closed, as if you are squinting at something in the distance. Repeat this exercise throughout the day to improve your muscle control in the affected eye.