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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;
- Facial spasms;
Traditional Chinese medicine view of Bell’s palsy
In traditional Chinese medicine, this condition is due to “Qi” deficiency allows pathogenic wind-cold attacking the channels. This can occur when a patient is exposed to wind (e.g.sleeping near an open window, driving with the windows down, going on a boat when the winds are strong).
Often people with Bell’s palsy have a deficient 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 such as bacteria or virus.
The external pathogens cause inflammation in the affected region resulting in swelling of the surrounding tissues. This swelling can then affect the normal function of the facial nerves. As a result, the facial muscles becomes lax or paralysed.
The lack of nourishment to the local area can therefore cause symptoms of numbness and tingling, which are common signs of Qi and/or blood deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
How do acupuncture and Chinese medicine assist in Bell’s Palsy?
Acupuncture, especially electro-acupuncture has been widely used to help bell’s palsy patient in China. In the acupuncture department of any Chinese medicine hospital, you will always find people have acupuncture for their bell’s palsy. It is one of the most common condition treated with acupuncture at the Chinese medicine clinics or hospitals.
Usually your doctor may prescribe medication (steroids mostly) to reduce inflammation of the facial nerve and other medication for virus. While acupuncture moxibustion or/and Chinese herbal medicine treatment can help:
- Reduce stress, improve sleep and energy
- improve symptoms of bell’s palsy related pain – headache, nerve pain, bruise and pain under earlobe (facial nerve)
- Soothe facial muscle, improve blood flow, reduce tightness of face
- Expedite resolution of facial paralysis
- Enhance nerve function
- Doing electro-acupuncture helps your acupuncturist understand the severity of your facial nerve damage, hence helps the give right judgement of the prognosis (How long it takes the nerve to recover and how much percentage to recover).
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.
TCM acupuncture for Bell’s palsy
- expel wind;
- invigorate Qi and blood flow;
- nourish muscle and tendons;
- strengthen Defensive Qi for prolonged or reoccurred cases
Common used acupuncture points for Bell’s palsy
- Acupuncture points: SJ17, LI4, LI11, ST4, ST7
- methods include: traditional acupuncture, electro acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion
Common herbal formula for Bell’s palsy:
- Ying Qiao San
- Qian Zheng San
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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