Originating from Greek, synkinesis can be understood as “syn” – “together” and “kinesis” – “movement”. It is a term used to describe involuntary facial movements that occur together with voluntary movements in the face.
Practically, this may present in a variety of ways:
- Eye tightening and/or closing on the affected side when you smile, pucker, snarl, yawn, eat, drink or talk.
- Cheek spasms, neck tightening and/or chin dimpling on the affected side as you close your eyes, blink, raise your eyebrows, snarl, smile or pucker your lips.
- Excessive tears in the affected eye when you eat.
Not everyone with facial palsy develops synkinesis. It may occur 4-12 months after the initial onset of facial paralysis as the facial nerve regenerates. The most commonly accepted cause of synkinesis is “cross wiring” of facial nerve fibers as they regenerate, such that other “unintended” muscles are innervated together with the targeted muscle.
It is possible to substantially decrease the severity and intensity of synkinesis with facial retraining. Neuromuscular re-education is a process that involves retraining the brain and the control of movement of facial expressions. The retraining process is individualized to the person’s specific needs. Botox (delivered by your Physician) can also be used in conjunction with facial retraining to assist in relearning movement without synkinesis.