Bell’s Palsy often sneaks in overnight; and waking with a paralysis of the facial muscles can be quite alarming — often people believe they have suffered a stroke. The good news is Bell’s Palsy is often a temporary paralysis, and if you get acupuncture treatments several days a week immediately after onset, it will usually heal fully within a few months and often much quicker.
Bell’s causes asymmetry of the facial appearance, usually impacting only one side of the face. Impaired function from Bell’s Palsy can affect your body’s ability to eat, drink, speak and open and close your eyes. In addition, facial asymmetry affects an individual’s appearance and so Bell’s can affect psychological and social behaviors effecting the personal quality of a patients life.
Western medicine treats Bell’s Palsy most often with corticosteroid therapy to reduce inflammation. The use of steroids is controversial as steroids can have serious side effects especially with long term use. Acupuncture offers a method to support your body through a speedy recovery, there are no side effects, and it is recommended by many doctors and the National Institute of Health as one of the best avenues of treatment for Bell’s Palsy.
In China, acupuncture has been used for centuries to assist in Bell’s Palsy recovery. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, the root cause of Bells Palsy is believed to be two things: “external wind attacking the channels of the face,” and weakness in the underlying qi (a person’s inherent energy). The treatment goal is to expel wind and resolve damp, while invigorating the qi and blood circulation to the facial tissue with consistent acupuncture treatments. Unlike western treatment, acupuncture treats the root cause in addition to deeply relaxing a patient, and helping to relieve stress so healing can take place more naturally. Through this avenue, acupuncture can alleviate symptoms and substantially quicken the recovery process of Bell’s Palsy patients.
Stress can worsen Bell’s Palsy, and is often thought to be a factor in bringing on an episode. Taking vitamins B12, B6, as well as zinc can promote nerve growth and help speed recovery of damaged facial nerves. Supplements like St. John’s Wort, Valerian, and Ashwaganda can also be used to relieve stress that can contribute to and possibly be a factor in Bell’s Palsy incidents.
Along with Acupuncture, massage can also help ease the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy. Gently massaging the afflicted areas of the face, and practicing daily facial exercises can speed recovery. A full body massage on areas that are unaffected by the condition can also help keep the blood and energy flowing freely to the tissues that do need healing.
Patients with Bell’s Palsy can have several weeks of recovery time in which they may choose to take some time off from any rigorous daily routines to reduce stress, get plenty of rest and get acupuncture! Charlotte recommends starting acupuncture as soon as possible after onset, and getting treatments 3-5 times a week for the first few weeks.