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What is Bell’s palsy? – the western medicine view
Bell’s palsy is a paralysis of the facial nerve resulting in inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. It is a peripheral facial paralysis rather than the central nervous system. Several conditions can cause a facial paralysis, However, if no specific cause can be identified (such as brain tumor, stroke, or Lyme disease), the condition is called as Bell’s palsy.
The onset of Bell’s palsy generally come on quickly, often in a matter of hours or overnight, and there may be pain behind/below the ear.
Paralysis or weakness on one side of the face, along with a sagging eyebrow and difficulty closing the eye.
Other possible symptoms include:
- Numbness of the face;
- Difficulty in speaking;
- Loss of taste in the front portion of the tongue;
- Dryness or watering of the affected eye, and a turned out lower eyelid;
- Dribbling when drinking or after cleaning teeth;
- Ear pain, especially below the ear;
- Tearing at the affected eye;
- Intolerance to loud noises on the affected side.
Rarely, new nerve fibres that grow back after paralysis connect to the wrong facial muscle. This can result in lasting damage, and cause one or several of the following:
- Blinking when attempting to smile;
- Involuntary movement of the corners of the mouth when closing the eyes;
- Twitching of facial muscles;
- Facial spasms;
Usually your doctor may prescribe medication (steroids mostly) to reduce inflammation of the facial nerve and other medication for virus.
When should I have treatment for Bell’s palsy?
The severity of bell’s palsy symptoms is depend on how much of the damage of facial nerve. Early treatment can reduce the damage to minimal and help the facial nerve to recover quickly. Usually the facial function is back to normal in the first a few weeks with treatment.
Facial paralysis – the Traditional Chinese Medicine version
Obviously Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn’t have the diagnosis of “Bell’s Palsy”.
The symptoms of Bell’s Palsy pertain to TCM’s “Deviated mouth and eyes 口眼歪斜”, “Facial Paralysis面瘫”, or “Wind Stroke 中风 – 中经络”
In traditional Chinese medicine, those symptoms are caused by two factors:
- Pathogenic Wind-Cold attacking on the channels of the face. This can occur when a patient is exposed to pathogenic wind /cold (may related to WM-western medicine’s virus or bacteria infections);
- Weak “Defensive Qi” – WM’s low immune system (possibly due to emotional stress, physically over strain, improper diet, unresolved or chronic illness). As a result, they are more vulnerable to external pathogenic factors.
The external pathogens cause energy blockage in the affected region resulting in swelling of the surrounding tissues. This swelling can then affect the normal function of the face.
As the energy channels – meridians have been blocked, disfunction of the face occurs – the facial muscles becomes lax or paralysed.
TCM pathogenesis of facial paralysis
The lack of movement of face, swelling pain on the face/under earlobe is due to blockage of the meridian (from pathogens);
Numbness and tingling on the face are due to Qi and/or blood deficiency.
TCM management principles
The TCM management principles are:
- Expel wind;
- Invigorate Qi and blood flow;
- Nourish muscle and tendons;
- Strengthen Defensive Qi for prolonged or reoccurred cases
What do acupuncture Traditional Chinese Medicine do?
In China acupuncture, especially electro-acupuncture has been widely used in assisting patients who suffering from “facial palsy”. It is one of the most common conditions treated with acupuncture TCM at the Chinese medicine clinics or hospitals in China.
Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn’t diagnose or treat a “Disease”, but treat “the person”.
Acupuncture moxibustion or/and Chinese herbal medicine may be used for “the patient” to:
- Reduce stress, improve energy;
- Improve facial paralysis/bell’s palsy related pain – headache, nerve pain, bruise and pain under earlobe (where the facial nerve exits from skull);
- Soothe facial muscle, improve blood flow, reduce tightness of face;
- Moxibustion improves blood flow on the face and deeply around the facial nerve;
- Electro-acupuncture stimulates muscle movement of face;
- Electro-acupuncture helps your acupuncturist understand the severity of your facial nerve damage, so that he/she can give the right judgement of the prognosis (How long and how much for symptoms to recover).
There are some researches about acupuncture TCM for bell’s palsy.
Some researches found that acupuncture TCM may be able to provide an alternative way to manage bell’s palsy symptoms. However, due to the poor quality and heterogeneity of the included studies, currently there are insufficient evidence to support the efficacy of acupuncture from randomised controlled trials.
As each patient is different should you want to know if acupuncture TCM is right for your individual conditions, please feel free to
Or simply call 03 8802 1519 to make an appointment to see our TCM acupuncture practitioners.
Correlation between facial nerve functional evaluation and efficacy evaluation of acupuncture treatment for Bell’s palsy.
[Article in Chinese] Zhou ZL1, Li CX, Jiang YB, Zuo C, Cai Y, Wang R
Xu SB1, Huang B, Zhang CY, Du P, Yuan Q, Bi GJ, Zhang GB, Xie MJ, Luo X, Huang GY, Wang W.
Herbal acupuncture point sticking combined with electroacupuncture therapy in the treatment of Bell’s palsy: a randomised controlled trial.
[Article in Chinese] Qi QH1, Ni SS2, Wang YL3, Peng K4, Qu HN2, Yang CH2, Wang J3, Xi W3