Bell’s Palsy and Acupuncture

What is Bell’s palsy?

Bell’s palsy or idiopathic facial paralysis is a disease caused by inflammation of unknown origin affecting the facial nerve resulting in acute paralysis of one side of the face.

The facial nerve has so many functions and is so complex, damage to the nerve or a disruption in its function can lead to many problems. Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy, idiopathic facial palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, and facial paralysis can vary from person to person and range in severity from mild weakness to total paralysis.  These symptoms may include twitching, weakness, or paralysis on one or rarely both sides of the face.  

Symptoms may include drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, drooling, dryness of the eye or mouth, impairment of taste, and excessive tearing in one eye. Most often these symptoms, which usually begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours, lead to significant facial distortion.

Other symptoms may include pain or discomfort around the jaw and behind the ear, ringing in one or both ears, headache, and loss of taste, hypersensitivity to sound on the affected side, impaired speech, dizziness, and difficulty eating or drinking.

Treatment:

Bell’s palsy affects each individual differently, so the acupuncture treatment is tailored to each individuals needs.  Some cases are mild and do not require treatment as the symptoms usually subside on their own within 2 weeks.  For others, the western medicine regimen is standard and mostly the same for every patient, the medications include a steroid like prednisone to reduce inflammation quickly so as to prevent nerve damage from inflammation and an anti viral like acyclovir to treat viral herpes infection. This medication regimen is strongly advised and most helpful in reducing the duration of the condition and can be combined with acupuncture without any side effects. Analgesics such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may relieve pain.  Because of possible drug interactions, individuals taking prescription medicines should always talk to their doctors before taking any over-the-counter drugs.

Another important factor in treatment is eye protection. Bell’s palsy can interrupt the eyelid’s natural blinking ability, leaving the eye exposed to irritation and drying.  Therefore, keeping the eye moist and protecting the eye from debris and injury, especially at night, is important.  Lubricating eye drops, such as artificial tears or eye ointments or gels, and eye patches are also effective.

Other therapies such as physical therapy, facial massage may provide a potential small improvement in facial nerve function and pain. From an experiential perspective acupuncture along with western medication has great benefit to people that are affected by Bell’s Palsy.

In general, decompression surgery for Bell’s palsy — to relieve pressure on the nerve — is controversial and is seldom recommended.  On rare occasions, cosmetic or reconstructive surgery may be needed to reduce deformities and correct some damage such as an eyelid that will not fully close or a crooked smile.

Treatment with Acupuncture:

Bell’s palsy according to traditional Chinese medicine, Bell’s palsy, trigeminal neuralgia and facial paralysis are conditions characterized by wind attacking the channels and collaterals in the facial regions, leading to blocked circulation of qi and blood. As a result, there is often severe pain, numbness, loss of muscle tone, and paralysis of the muscles. Exactly what causes this damage, however, is unknown.

Optimal treatment of this condition requires use of acupuncture and western medicines in many cases. Acupuncture releases the exterior wind, open the channels and collaterals, and activate qi and blood circulation.  Acupuncture is also effective in chronic states of Bell’s Palsy.

Reference:

Bell’s Palsy Fact Sheet

Effect of acupuncture in a patient with 7-year-history of Bell’s palsy.

Intense Acupuncture Benefits Bell’s Palsy

Acupuncture Could Improve Function In People WIth Bell’s Palsy, Study Finds

Efficacy of Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

The Treatment of Bell’s Palsy with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Acupuncture for Bell’s palsy.

Physical therapy for Bell’s palsy (idiopathic facial paralysis).