The term synkinesis means "simultaneous movement". Facial synkinesis refers to the simultaneous movement that occurs where the facial nerve has been damaged, cut and sewn back together, or after Bell'sBell's palsy. Suffers of Bell'sBell's palsy typically make a full recovery, but the facial nerve fibers may be implanted into different muscles that cause synkinesis. Those who have undergone surgery, or who suffered severe trauma and the facial nerve had to be resewn, may find that the facial nerve fibers reconnect to the wrong nerve group. Both of these situations can lead to undesired and simultaneous facial movements.
Synkinesis can trigger involuntary and unwanted muscle movement. As a result, separate muscle groups that would typically function independently will move simultaneously. For example, a person smiles, and the eye on the face's affected side will also close involuntarily. This most common manifestation of synkinesis is often referred to as ocular-oral synkinesis. Functionally, synkinesis can cause limitations or difficulties in performing such activities as eating and drinking or smiling. Social stigma and self-esteem issues are also significant problems resulting from the effects of synkinetic paralysis.
At New York Facial Paralysis, we offer therapeutic modalities for the treatment of synkinetic paralysis. Broken down into three basic methods, Dr. O will evaluate each patient on an individual basis to see which method is best for each case. Often times, a combination of therapies will be used.
The three modalities used in the treatment of synkinetic paralysis include:
- Facial neuromuscular retraining – physical therapy to retrain the facial muscles and decrease unwanted facial movement
- Botox – BTX-A is injected with fine needles to block the release of neurotransmitters at the nerve endings
- Surgery – selective nerve transection is used for patients who are resistant to therapy and Botox.
- In some cases, muscle from another part of the body is used to reanimate the smile.
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Posted on behalf of Dr. Teresa O, New York Facial Paralysis Center