Facial Exercises for Stroke Patients

Speech therapy targeting auditory comprehension
A woman is undergoing rehabilitation therapy. (Image: wanderluster/iStock/Getty Images)

Strokes can cause facial paralysis or partial loss of muscle control. These symptoms make speech, eating, facial expressions and general facial movement difficult or impossible for stroke victims. Specific exercises can help stroke patients regain partial or full mobility in their facial muscles. Post-stroke therapy involves retraining your brain to use different neural pathways to regain facial control through repetitive practice, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Smiling

Immediately after a stroke, all facial exercises will be difficult. Start slowly, focusing on the brain–muscle connection. Practicing and using the muscles are keys to regaining mobility. Smile, or try to smile, without showing your teeth. Next, smile showing your teeth. Slowly smile, parting your lips deliberately into a smile. Pucker your lips like you are going to blow a kiss. Use equal muscle strength on both sides of your face. Repeat this sequence until full mobility returns.

Vowel Sounds

More than one-fourth of all stroke patients have language impairments, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders. Post-stroke exercises can help you to overcome them. Start by making vowel sounds. Speak each vowel sound out loud, which works the muscles around your lips and jaw. Exaggerate each sound, speaking slowly, to get the correct sound and lip movement.

Eyebrows

The Bell's Palsy Information Site recommends eyebrow exercises for people whose strokes result in Bell's palsy, a dysfunction of the facial nerve that results in loss of facial muscle control. Raise and lower your eyebrows, keeping a slow, steady rhythm. Next, raise your eyebrows, hold for 10 to 15 seconds, lower your brows and repeat. Focus on performing the exercises correctly, even if you have to take your time. Use short exercise sessions, and perform the exercises several times during the day.

Eyes

Exercising your eyes is another way for stroke patients to work facial muscles. Open and close your eyes slowly without moving your brows. Next, try to close your affected eye slowly without moving your eyebrow downward or your lips upward. Winking is an effective facial exercise after a stroke. Wink only one eye, if possible, and then alternate winking with each eye. Open your eyes as wide as possible, hold them open and then rest.

Nose

To exercise your nose, wrinkle it and sniffle. Next, flare your nostrils, hold them open and then release. Repeat these motions slowly several times throughout the day.

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