What Is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a condition wherein half of your facial muscles are weakened or paralyzed, causing one side of your face to droop or become stiff. It is sometimes referred to as facial palsy for this reason. It affects approximately 40,000 people in the United States each year.
While the exact cause of Bell’s palsy is often unknown, it is directly related to the 7th cranial nerve, also called the facial nerve. In some cases, trauma or infection of the nerve is known, but in other cases, it is likely due to swelling and inflammation around the nerve. Sometimes this inflammation is idiopathic, meaning there simply is no known cause.
Bell’s palsy can occur at any age, although it is most commonly seen in patients with diabetes or those who are recovering from a viral infection. Some viruses that have been linked to cases of Bell’s palsy include those that cause:
- Cold sores and genital herpes (herpes simplex)
- Chickenpox and shingles (herpes zoster)
- Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (coxsackievirus)
- Respiratory illness (adenovirus)
- Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr)
- German measles (rubella)
- Flu (influenza B)
In most cases, Bell’s palsy is temporary and resolves entirely within six months, with some improvement seen within a few weeks. In a small number of cases, patients will continue to experience symptoms for the rest of their lives or have recurrent cases of Bell’s palsy.
What Are the Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?
Symptoms of Bell’s palsy may include:
- Rapid onset of weakness or paralysis on one side of your face
- Drooping facial appearance
- Difficulty making facial expressions like smiling or closing your eye
- Decrease in ability to taste
- Pain in the jaw or ear area on the affected side of your face
- Increased sound sensitivity on the affected side
- Changes to the production of tears and saliva
Because the symptoms of Bell’s palsy are often very similar to those of a stroke, it is vital to seek medical attention right away so that a stroke can be ruled out. Bell’s palsy is not caused by a stroke, but without further evaluation, it may be difficult to differentiate between symptoms of the two. Additionally, your doctor may want to run tests to try to determine the cause or severity.
How Can Acupuncture Help the Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?
Acupuncture is incredibly effective at treating the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. In a study conducted in China, patients were found to have between 90% and 98% reduction in symptoms depending on the method used.
Acupuncture increases circulation, which is well-known to aid in the reduction of inflammation. At its root, Bell’s palsy is caused by inflammation, whether it is due to infection or some kind of trauma to the nerve or the tissue surrounding it. Therefore, acupuncture can be an excellent tool for the treatment of Bell’s palsy symptoms, especially since it is non-invasive and does not interfere with any other treatment you may be receiving.
By carefully inserting very fine needles along pathways in the face, such as the Yangming and Shaoyang channels, as indicated by ancient acupuncture reference, obstructions like inflammation, can be cleared. Depending on your specific symptoms, Dr. Lok will determine where to place the acupuncture needles. Not everyone will experience all of the symptoms mentioned above, and modifying treatment to the individual yields the best results.