A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies the brain either becomes blocked or bursts. Damage decreases the amount of blood flow and oxygen to the brain and leads to brain cell death. The symptoms depend on what area of the brain was affected. Some patients experience difficulty moving their facial muscles, making facial expressions, speech and eating difficult after a stroke. Specific exercises can help regain control and strength in these muscles.
Learn About Facial Muscles
Include exercises that work all of the facial muscles. The idea is to retrain the brain to move the facial muscles the way it did before the stroke. There are many muscles in the face to be exercised (see diagram).
Open the Eyes and Mouth
Open your eyes as wide as you can while you open your mouth as well. Then shut the eyes tight, close your mouth and squeeze your face as tight as you can. This stretches and strengthens the entire face.
Move Your Lips
To focus more on your mouth to help with speech and eating, first pucker your lips. Pull your cheeks in and push your lips out as far as you can. Then let the lips come apart and smile as wide as you can. This moves the muscles that surround the mouth through their full range of motion.
Recite Your Vowels
Say all of the vowels (A, E, I, O and U) out loud and really exaggerate the movements of the mouth. Open your mouth as wide as you can and say the vowels as loudly as you are able. This will work the muscles around the mouth and in the cheeks.
Raise Your Eyebrows
Keeping your mouth closed, open your eyes as wide as you can and raise your eyebrows as high as you are able. Then lower the eyebrows back down as far as you can. Exaggerate the movement. This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around the eyes and in the forehead.
Perform these exercises for ten to twelve repetitions each at least once per day, every day. It will take a few weeks or possibly longer to retrain your brain to use the muscles and to make the muscles stronger. It is often helpful to practice these exercises in front of a mirror to make sure you are doing them correctly.