Long-Term Bell's Palsy Recovery: What I am Doing


I've been very upfront about the struggles with long recovery Bell's Palsy.  See my ongoing journal HERE

I am not a health care professional, simply a regular person who has been affected for 16 months one side and 14 the other. 

Through trial and error I've found what works for my condition and my recovery. 

I hope some suggestions are worth trying. It's always best to work with a physical therapist who is expert in this particular condition. Unfortunately, there were none in my area that worked under my health plan. 

I expected to be like the majority and be over this situation within weeks or a couple months, but nope. The combination of unknown diabetes and extreme constant stress created a bad inflammatory mojo. 

I ended up with bilateral paralysis, but 2 months apart. 

The first side that went down had 2 months of a strong side to work with and recovered the basics within a couple months, but the other side had a not fully strong side opposing it so it has taken longer. 

Altogether, the right eyebrow lift, and the lips/open-mouth smile/gritting teeth/controlling lips are very slow and tough but are progressing. 

I started some strategies that I think have helped me finally get over the hump over a year into this and make strides. 


I sing. I sing daily. Talking is good too and sometimes I am known to just talk out loud to myself to practice my movements but overuse can also exhaust the stronger side and make muscles tight, pulling that mouth in that direction. 

My nasolabial fold on that stronger side is very pronounced as it is tightened up taking up slack for the weak side.

Massage is so critical! (more on this below)

I like to sing things that involve harmonizing as that means you will have to really think your lip movements and hold it there. 

My favorite is the song above and I love that one a lot! But, there are plenty of types of music that are ideal to harmonize with. Beach Boys, Journey, R&B, are all great ones to get the lips moving and holding a shape for a long note.


Hey, it's therapeutic. Yes, you can practice holding a straw or spoon between your lips and bouncing it, but blowing bubbles and chewing gum really give you a good workout and muscle memory.


Ice is a fantastic anti-inflammatory. I usually at the end of showering turn the water on ice cold and stand a few minutes under it, being sure my face gets it. 

Sometimes, I take a wet washcloth and toss in freezer one minute. Then I wrap it on the face until it gets warm. 

Other times, I take a washcloth in the tub and wring it out put the heat on the face for a while. This relaxes tense muscles at the end of the day.


As hard as it is to see your face contorting, it's important to see what's going on.

I have synkinesis. It happens a lot of times with long-term palsy. The muscles get overly tight and shorten. 

At the end of the day it might be more pronounced. The strong side of my face, the nasolabial fold becomes very pronounced and the mouth pulls to that side more.  

You must be extra careful to help massage and relax the overused side of your face for balance. 

Use a mirror to your advantage. You may be surprised how much you can gauge progress and form. 

I try to look myself in the eyes at first and encourage me. "I'm so pleased you're doing your exercises. You have come a long way!" 


Queen Victoria Hospital has some of the best Bell's Palsy recovery videos I've found. 

I really like Motivational Doc.  This physician's exercises for neck and smile. 


Like accupuncture, there's debate about the use of a TENS unit (sticky pads that give electrical stimulation to the nerves in the face). I didn't want to interfere with natural pathways of nerves firing, but by using it, I was able to see how far behind the weaker side was as the signals didn't stimulate the nerves as much as they did on the healed side. 

It gave me a gauge to see how I'm regaining full signals, but it also gave a rather passive exercise to the muscles. 

I used it for short periods of time once a day, perhaps 10 mins total, moving pads around the face to areas I was still struggling with.  I don't know if I can validate how helpful it was except, as I said, a gauge for how the nerves are firing. 

Another indicator for me is the overall feeling in that area of the face. When I try to smile, I can feel the chin and around the mouth a kind of novocaine-wearing-off vibe. 


There have been times where I felt certain that I was making no progress, but because I randomly took pics of various parts of my face now and then, I was able to go into the folder and compare some things. 

I didn't realize it, but during these 7 months, the tongue role was complete finally. 

Keeping photos can also be a reminder of how bad it was and how much it has improved.

One thing I do appreciate is that I believe by having to focus on facial strength, flexibility, coordination, and massage, I am actually building a more attractive face than before. 

You can't see it in the photos necessarily but the smiling photo of me before, I weighed 37 pounds more than the newest photo. You can see it in my face too and my jawline and neck structure. 


You really can't massage too much. Every time I have some free minutes, I find my fingertips working on areas, looking for trigger point knots, feeling tightness, stretching, letting go. 

I have to laugh because at night, I would lie in bed and feel like I was smiling and I had to concentrate to let the muscles relax. I did not realize how their baseline is to snap back into tightness like rubber bands. 

Learn to know the difference. I slack my jaw and just melt and that's how I know it's all relaxing.   


How'd you get the condition? Well, I had a perfect storm of unknown/untreated diabetes, enormous amounts of stress, lack of sleep, and ignoring my body. It resulted in a cold sore (something I never get) on the right side and within 48 hours that side of the face went down. Then, two months later, oh no! A cold sore on the other side of the mouth. Nearly 24 hours later that side was down. 

Other conditions can cause this palsy, so be certain you get a full viral panel and your doctors check other possible rare causes.  They will likely give you anti-inflammatories and antivirals right away. That's a decision you have to make.

The first side that went down, I knew what it was, didn't get it treated. I knew it'd resolve. But, when the second side went down I took antivirals. I refused anti-inflammatories because they can make blood sugar rise. I wish I had taken them to see if the inflammation could go down quicker. 

The condition scared the bejesus out of me, so I focused myself away from any fast food and processed, doing a lot of smoothies as they were just easier to eat.  

I slept like I was hibernating. I had to stop all work, all activity, and simply sleep, sleep, wake up, sleep again. Then, as I reduced stress by not working and resting, I started exercising on my elliptical and dancing, using a balance board, stretching....

I dropped 37 pounds in 2 months and my BP plummeted because I lost volume too quickly so for a time, I was around 80/60 and feeling faint when I stood up. I don't recommend rapid weight loss but my body responded to real food and the chewing mechanism was so awkward, it took forever to eat half a sandwich, so that's what I would eat. 

I never want to go back to that place again. I've adopted meditation and time sitting in the sun each day (I do the two together). Just 10 minutes on my phone timer, but it's positively essential. 

I've also learned to delegate, to say no, to not take on too many tasks, and most importantly not to let my mind run willy nilly down scary thoughts and horrible outcomes.

This process of taking care of myself used to seem like a luxury. Now, it seems like a best friend helping a best friend. 

Perhaps one of the best things I've found for recovery is laughter. I watch tons of funny animal videos and goofy movies and stand-up comedians. I find that focusing on the beauty in nature, my movements as I dance, the upbeat feelings of how silly critters can be, just uplifts my soul.

You create the world you want to live in.