Mouth tightening

Hi All. I wonder how many of you have experienced a tightening of facial muscles, especially around the mouth and most frustratingly, when you’re ready to eat or drink? If so, any handy tips, exercises you might recommend would be great. I feel this is impacting negatively on my recovery which is otherwise going pretty well. Thanks Neil


I have, Neil

One day, on my treadmill, I was so forceful on the handlebars, that the tension went onto my shoulders, raising them, through my neck, and onto my jaw which nearly locked. It wasn’t as bad as classic locked jaw, but pretty bad, and scared me to death. Well almost. The following ideas are mine, but based on a variety of different therapies.

Since that fright, I have always been mindfully concentrating on relaxing my upper body, while working my lower body. For example, moving my jaw loosely while exercising. Hum or sing to take this one stage further. Vibrations are good, and loosen us up naturally. One thing is tense while it exercises, but I also often focus on one other thing that should be independent from that tension and loose. Visualization and checking with gentle movement to guard against stiffness help. I still feel I have stiff facial muscles on my stroke side, but nobody can see anything stiff; it’s something I alone can feel.

Good luck, and enjoy singing, ciao, Roland

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I agree with @pando that muscles get activated together that shouldn’t be .

There is a saying that I’ve heard from physiotherapists - “muscles that fire together wire together”

I don’t get them in my face but I do get muscles that I can’t turn off and turn on at the wrong times .

No guarantee it’s the same thing going on with you as with me but very possible


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A small update…

As Roland @pando well knows, one of our useful therapy aids, for both of us is a length of broomstick.

Last night I was watching television with my wife while holding my broomstick aloft in my affected hand and attempting to rotate my wrist. Lots of muscles that I didn’t want to use in my neck were firing at the same time.

This morning I woke up aware of those muscles, with a headache or series of different headaches on that side of my head and I think related to scalp muscles and neck muscles I can still feel that they are tight at 10:00. My wrist exercises last night may very well have been the cause - it’s hypothesis that I do not know anyway to categorically move to be confirmed theory.

It’s not the only way to get muscles doing the wrong thing but it’s definitely a contributory possibility :frowning:



Definitely, Simon,

we lack independence of muscle control to an alarming degree. We lack the ability to refine and use our muscles efficiently, and with fine resolution. Practice, mindful repetition, and visualization are key. I know this principle to be very true not only from my Chinese Dr. but from the fact that I was trained as a violinist, and I still teach. The degree of self discipline and self awareness that goes into a very complex mixture of muscle control is huge, and I would say a violinist or any good musician has an awareness that goes well beyond the average person’s self awareness; simply because of hours and hours of practice and mind-over-muscle routines that we cover in every permutation.

Therefore, to lack this refinement of control is completely devastating. To make matters worse, it’s no good to focus on building strength alone. Yes, strength is good, but not the main ingredient. The fact that you have identified a link between your scalp / neck muscles and your broomstick exercises is a great step towards the awareness a musician must have to improve his/her playing. Your awareness of this tension is the start of your muscle rehab. For sure, you have done much work to reach this stage, but there is work yet to come. I am no better, unfortunately, and have years of refinement and tweaking ahead of me. Well, nothing like being busy!

I strongly believe in my ideas, because as mentioned, muscle control was my everyday routine. As it is now ! So before an efficient synergy takes place, we have to undo the ugly synergy that exists now. But every step of the way we will inch towards elegance and efficiency… I doubt I will ever get there 100%, but we must strive to. Mind over muscle… over and over until our movements become graceful on the outside and inside once more. Right now, I’m an ugly stick figure. and I walk like a penguin (which, is the most efficient method for someone in my condition). Your intuition is spot on, Simon, and you did well to identify the cause of your headache. The next time you try the same broomstick exercises you will be better at it, more careful, and more aware of the dangers, and more refined, as I call it. Give it 3-4 days rest or even a whole week, then try again.

The whole cyclic process I describe above can happen naturally, or with help, and with tips in the above discussion, it can happen in a more efficient way. Let me know if any of this makes sense, or if I come across as somewhat off-the-rails. For sure I’ve put it across in a bit of a rushed way, but the gist of it, is there, I hope

Good luck and happy exercises, Roland

Ps. While your neck’s recovering, time to work on the lower body, with one eye on your upper body, making sure it switches off. And there are different degrees of excellence. Just as long as you step up a notch, by your personal standards.


And indeed the disciplines of software development particularly debugging that teach a lot that is reinterpretable in the identification of cause and effect and the unmasking of assumptions that have to be proved, if they are to be valid :slight_smile:


I agree with @pando and @SimonInEdinburgh and the tense mouth something I’ve worked on constantly since my stroke 2yrs ago.

I like that saying Simon and so true :smile:

@Strokevictim57 My small toes want to curl under, my bigger toes want to curl upwards, the same goes for my hand…which can become a real pain when using a computer mouse :confounded: Then that tension travels up my arm and into my neck, jaw and even scalp. Not so bad these days now but back in the beginning even my tongue would become plastered to the roof of my mouth.

These days I only tend to get it when I’m driving, so that’s still a work in progress. A certain amount of it is “mind over matter” so you are constantly making the conscious effort to keep the tension out of your mouth until it becomes second nature. Which it does, over long period of time. You have to consciously make those muscles in you mouth/jaw relax.

When driving I have to consciously relax my toes, keep my grip on the steering wheel relaxed to help stop tension building in my mouth. Also, with lips close, jaw open…teeth parted, tongue to the floor of my mouth. I push down hard with my tongue in order to stretch the back of the throat a bit too. In the early days post stroke, my throat muscles used to tense and close up a lot making it harder to swallow and this helped a lot. So I keep my mouth as relaxed as possible most of the time.

Maybe some hand/arm stretches would help. Try some wall press-ups
and while you do them concentrate on relaxing your mouth, jaw, keeping your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. Talk or count out loud to force that disconnection. When you push out from the wall hold that position for a few moments and even try to push further to give your arm a good stretch.

Another stretch is keeping arm at your side with your hand pointing out to the side and push down as you tilt your head to your opposite shoulder.
And tilting your head back, both tensing and stretching the front neck muscles.

Going back to Simons phrase “muscles that fire together wire together”, this article might help with understanding. I workout at the gym post stroke and you a lot of funny facial expressions…my own included :laughing:


Having looked back at your first post now, can you see better how your issue with your mouth relates. Not only do you have the tension of your stroke arms but you have also built up tension from the arm using the stick…if that the hand you’re using it with. That’s one of numerous reasons why orthopaedics/physio’s like to avoid the use of walking aids as much as possible in general. But in particular with stroke survivors, because of the risks of teaching the brain bad habits, poor posture as it relearns muscle connectivity/reconnects in those areas affected.

Another thing you could try is regular neck and shoulder massage, either by a physio therapist/osteopath or even by just using an electric massager. If you use an electric one, I’d suggest you get your wife to do it as you probably won’t be able to do a thorough enough job of it.


I think it’s inevitable… during subsequent stages of learning we can refine and improve independence of control and efficiency. To aim for that perfection on the first pass is just unrealistic… that’s what I mean with the words elegance and efficiency. Right now my efficiency (and for many with a stroke) is poor ; one half of the body is still quite good (though losing its former brilliance) as it coexists with a clumsy, wooden other half…