Some common symptoms of Parkinson’s involve the face, head, throat and neck. Some people with PD have a blank or neutral facial expression. Other people have difficulty swallowing, blinking or speaking. Some lose their sense of smell. A common location of dystonia, an involuntary muscle contraction, occurs in the neck. Balance, partly related to ears and eyes, is often compromised with PD. Even a common non-motor symptom seemingly unrelated to the others–anxiety–has a link to this area.
These issues all relate to the work of various cranial nerves.
We have 12 pairs of cranial nerves. They all originate in parts of the brain. Some enervate the muscles that move the eyes. Others govern taste on parts of the tongue, chewing, the movement of the shoulders and neck, balance, sense of smell. One even helps regulate the fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest nervous systems.
There are cranial nerves that create movement, nerves that receive sensory input, and others that do both.
It seems logical to me that stimulating those nerves by sending them sensations and using the muscles associated with them may have an impact on the wellness of people living with Parkinson’s. That’s why I developed a series of facial exercises using the tongue, mouth, eyes. (You can get my FREE PD Face Yoga Exercises HERE).
Even without a formal exercise program, exaggerating the movement of the eyeballs and tongue, making yourself smile wide, yawn, squint, all will use these muscles and activate the nerves. Tip your head from side to side to stretch the neck. Lift and drop your shoulders. Try to get your tongue to touch your nose. Gently slide your fingers over the skin of your face to send sensory messages to the brain.
Those crazy facial movements may help release tension in the face, jaw and neck. At the very least, they’ll provide entertainment for your grandkids!