Dana Faulkner woke up one morning and could not feel her face. She took a drink of water and it poured out of her mouth and down her face.
It was caused by a condition called Bell’s Palsey, which causes weakness of the facial muscles. In addition, Dana was diagnosed with shingles in her ear and an inner ear infection. “All at the same time. It was brutally painful,” she recalled. “I had lost ninety percent of the function in my face.”
A course of medications including histamine shots addressed her medical conditions but with a family wedding coming up and wanting to smile for the photos, Dana enlisted the help of the vestibular physical therapy team at CNC Hearing and Balance Center.
Occupational Therapist Rebecca Callais started facial therapy exercises to help the muscles return to normal function and to inhibit any abnormal movement patterns that could arise and cause lasting deficits. “We usually use mirror feedback so that the patient can see the normal symmetry from the uninvolved side to the involved side, to get the movement to come back normally and symmetrically. I use a combination of hands-on technique and a home exercise supplementation with graded progression.” Rebecca said.
“The goal is to get the patient back to their usual functions including communication, eating, drinking and social participation. Some of these people have insecurities with smiling for pictures, socializing and/or communicating with friends and family. They may feel self-conscious drinking out of straw or eating from a spoon, limiting their confidence dining out in the community. In a post-COVID time, it is important to have clients resume their lives to the fullest. So as an occupational therapist, my focus is always on function and trying to get my clients back to meaningful activities without reservation or insecurities.” Rebecca said
“I’m being patient with it and I can see progress every time I look in the mirror. I’m very grateful,” Dana said.