Can Acupuncture help Bell’s Palsy?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, this nerve disorder affects about 40,000 U.S. adults and children each year. This condition often comes as a shock, overnight with most patients waking with facial muscles paralyzed, usually on one side of the face. For most people, Bell’s palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell’s palsy symptoms for life.
What is Bell’s Palsy? Bell’s Palsy is an unexplained episode of facial muscle weakness or paralysis that begins suddenly and worsens over three to five days. This condition results from damage to the facial nerve. This nerve controls most of the muscles in the face and parts of the ear.
If the facial nerve is inflamed, it will press against the cheekbone or may pinch, thus causing damage to the protective covering of the nerve causing it to become irritated and inflamed, leading to weakened or paralyzed facial muscles. This is Bell’s Palsy.
What Causes Bell’s Palsy? A specific cause of Bell’s Palsy in unknown, however according to the Mayo Clinic, it is often related to exposure to a viral infection. Viruses that have been linked to Bell’s palsy include:
- Cold sores and genital herpes (herpes simplex)
- Chickenpox and shingles (herpes zoster)
- Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr)
- Respiratory illnesses (adenovirus)
- flu (influenza B)
There are no diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of Bell’s Palsy, so diagnosing it requires ruling out other more serious conditions, such as brain tumor or stroke. It is important to get evaluated by a trained physician at the onset of any facial droop or paralysis.
What are the Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy? The following are the most common symptoms of Bell’s Palsy. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently:
- Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of your face — occurring within hours to days
- Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions, such as closing your eye or smiling
- pain around the jaw or in or behind your ear on the affected side
- Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
- A decrease in your ability to taste
- Changes in the amount of tears and saliva you produce
Treatment Options: Conventional Medicine Interventions
Western medicine often treats Bell’s Palsy with corticosteroids like prednisone to reduce inflammation, however these steroids are not without side effects, including weight gain, nausea, acne, headache, disrupted sleep, and restlessness. Other interventions include antivirals, surgery, physiotherapy, and eye protection, -using a patch and eye drops to maintain eye health on the affected side.
Treatment Options: Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Chinese Medicine, Bell’s Palsy is considered to be something called Zhong Feng, or an attack of wind. Similar to a cold or the flu. Bell’s Palsy is the result of external wind due to depletion. Simply meaning, that it comes from outside of your body (a virus) and flares up because you’re run down. Over the course of months or even years, behaviors like not eating well, working too hard, not resting or sleeping well, and stress wear you down to the point that pathogens move in, take hold, and make you sick.
Chinese Medicine views the body holistically and treats disease based on patterns of systems of function. In Bell’s Palsy we focus on the main manifestation of paralysis, sensations of heaviness and pain, as well as underlying functional issues such as fatigue and poor sleep. Acupuncturists aim to restore facial function by decreasing inflammation, restoring normal circulation to the face, and supplementing the body’s normal repair mechanisms.
With acupuncture is the primary therapy, we can directly stimulate the affected muscles, reducing inflammation and increasing circulation, as well as using distal points on the body to build the body’s immune system back up and address the stress associated with the condition.
Healing from Bell’s Palsy with Optimal Outcomes.
Bell’s Palsy arises suddenly and usually resolves in 3 to 6 months without treatment. Despite this good prognosis, it is important to seek medical attention at the first sign of facial paralysis to rule out more serious conditions. Beginning treatment for Bell’s Palsy in the first week of symptoms bring about the best chance of full speedy recovery. Both conventional and Chinese Medicine practitioners use the tools of their medicines to initiate quicker healing and decrease the chances of long lasting facial changes. Both medicines recognize the Bell’s Palsy most often affects those with compromised immune systems. People with colds or upper respiratory infections, diabetes, overwork, and fatigue are more likely to experience Bell’s Palsy
Here are some simple precautions to reduce the likelihood that you will experience this disrupting condition
- Get enough sleep
- Rest at home and stay warm if you catch a cold
- wear a scarf, especially in windy weather and cold places
- Don’t go to sleep or outside with wet or damp hair
- If you catch a chill or feel run down, drink a warming tea like ginger and cinnamon
- see your acupuncturist regularly to stay in peak health!