Recovery & Support for Facial Nerve Paralysis

Many people recover from sudden facial nerve paralysis without medical treatment, though full recovery may take as long as a year. NYU Langone doctors monitor nerve function as it returns using tests such as electromyography.

For those who have had decompression or reanimation surgery, recovery varies depending on the procedure. Most can expect to see results almost immediately or within the weeks and months following the procedure. For example, surgery to implant a gold weight in the eyelid takes effect immediately, whereas surgery to transplant a muscle from the leg to the face may take more time to heal and restore function.

Rehabilitation

No matter what treatment you have, otoneurological surgeons and plastic surgeons at NYU Langone work closely with specially trained facial physical therapists at Rusk Rehabilitation to help you recover fully and attain control over your facial muscles in a natural way.

At NYU Langone, the muscular retraining process often includes guidance in synkinesis, the activation of one muscle group using a different muscle group—for example, learning to smile by clenching the jaw. Experts at NYU Langone are among the few specialists in New York City who offer this type of rehabilitation. Synkinesis can significantly enhance your recovery by making these new facial movements feel natural.

Our doctors usually advise waiting until there is significant activity in the facial nerve before starting therapy. They can determine nerve activity by observation during follow-up visits.

At the start of rehabilitation, a therapist teaches you specific exercises—for example, how to clench your jaw muscles when you want to smile—that you can do at home every day.

Eye Care

Keeping the eye on the paralyzed side of the face lubricated is a crucial part of recovery from facial nerve paralysis. If the eyelid cannot move or blink, the eye is always exposed to the air, causing it to dry out. Dry eye leaves the eye vulnerable to injury from dirt and other airborne elements. Doctors recommend using lubricating eye drops frequently throughout the day and taping the eye closed at night.

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