Home / Acupuncture and Bell’s Palsy

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been proven to be an effective way to combat the symptoms of Bell’ Palsy,  a stressful condition that can baffle medical practitioners and scare the heck out of patients. The initial treatment goal according to the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to expel Wind, resolve Damp, invigorate qi, and improve blood flow to the face. Let’s discuss Bell’s Palsy in depth before we delve into the treatment aspect of it.

What is Bell’s Palsy?

The facial nerve, also called the 7th cranial nerve, controls movement on the face to allow for blinking, closing and opening of the eyes, smiling and any other facial expressions. The nerve also carries impulses to the saliva glands, tear glands, and the muscle attached to a small bone in the ear called the stapes. The facial nerve also passes on taste sensations from the tongue.

The nerve is encased in the fallopian canal, a bony passage, and travels to the muscles on either side of the face. Bell’s palsy is temporary paralysis of a patien’ts face caused by trauma or damage on this nerve. It can be caused by compressive, traumatic, infective, metabolic or inflammatory anomalies of the victim’s facial nerve.

Etiology of the condition

Bell’s palsy (BP) accounts for most of the cases of patients affected by peripheral, facial paralysis. This kind of paralysis affects a large number of people all over the world with 70% of the cases resulting from Bell’s palsy. The numbers show that 20 to 30 people are affected by the condition in every 100 people each year, and 1 in every 60 individuals will be affected by the condition in their lifetime (Holland NJ and Weiner GM, 2004). The condition affects both sexes equally and is not so common in children even though there are recorded cases. BP affects people mostly in their mid-30s and up.

Causes of the condition

The workings of the disease have been a source of debate for years. However, no causes of the disease have been established even though some hypotheses have been brought forward. One of the theories aimed at explaining the condition describes it as an acute demyelinating disease, and suggests that BP may have the same pathogenic mechanisms as Guillain-Barre  syndrome (Greco A et al. 2012).

The patient’s facial nerve gets entrapped in their bony canal, particularly the labyrinthine section, leading to ischemia and compression. It leads to an inflammatory progression surrounding the nerve fibers. Viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, and hepatitis B virus are linked with initiating this inflammation (Yanagihara, 2000).

The onset of Bell’s Palsy hinders transmission of messages from the brain to the facial muscles, leading to paralysis. In their analysis, Adour KK et al. (1978), showed that the condition causes peripheral facial weakness and in most cases occurs on one side since it affects one of a pair of facial nerves. However, there are cases where it has affected both sides. Patients affected by  the condition usually experience difficulty closing their eyes. Saliva dribbles from the affected side of the mouth and facial expressions become asymmetric. In some cases the patient may also lose taste sensation and complain of noise intolerance (Singhi P and Jain V, 2003). The symptoms appear abruptly and increase in severity for 48 hours.

Depending on the size of the lesion, symptoms can be mild or severe and include the following;

  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Drooping corner of the mouth or eyelid
  • Dry eye or mouth
  • Loss of the sense of taste
  • Drooling
  • Excessive tearing
  • Twitching

The condition was named after the 19th Century Scottish surgeon, Sir Charles Bell, who described the 7th cranial nerve and how it is connected to the problem. The disorder has no relation to stroke and is the most common cause of facial paralysis.

Western treatments of the condition

The eyes are usually the first to be analyzed and managed to prevent disastrous ocular-related effects. Such eye problems include corneal abrasion or keratitis due to exposure, which are brought about by the partial closure of the eye. In most paretic cases, the mode of treatment mainly focuses on expectant management where the victim is closely monitored for spontaneous recovery.

There have been many studies that have investigated the application of steroids in managing BP, typically focusing on steroids like prednisone. The use of such regimens has been shown to work, especially when initiated right at the onset of the disease (Brown JS, 1982). In other studies, the administration of prednisolone is advised within 24 hours after paralysis begins (Shafshak TS, 1994).

The application of steroids has come under close scrutiny when it comes to pediatric applications. However, steroids have shown no significant effects in children. Reports over a 30-year period have shown that there is a minimal effect in treatment when steroids are used to treat cases of BP in children.

Clinical research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for treatment of Bell’s palsy

Acupuncture has been tested numerous times in different studies to show efficacy for partial facial paralysis due to Bell’s palsy. Some of the research includes the following findings:

One study conducted by Hou YL et al., compared the effects of acupuncture in combination with He-Ne laser in treatment of facial paralysis. The study used 97 cases which were randomly divided into two groups, one for acupuncture with laser and another which would use medication. The course of the treatment was 7 days and effects of treatment were observed after
two courses.

The medication group, which used conventional Western medicine for treatment, showed a lower level of cured patients than the group using acupuncture and He-Ne laser. The acupuncture group registered a cured rate of 81.8% while the medication group registered a cured rate of 45.20%. The findings showed that acupuncture could have more of an effect than the conventional methods of treatment.

A research study conducted by Qui HX et al. (2006) was aimed at demonstrating the use of penetrating needle acupuncture in the management of facial paralysis. The test subjects were divided in two groups of 50 each. The group using acupuncture recorded a cured rate of 76% and the other group using conventional treatment showed a cured rate of 55.6%. This research concluded that acupuncture is effective as a way of alleviating the symptoms of partial facial paralysis.

In a research study involving 480 patients, Li Y and colleagues showed the positive effects of moxibustion and acupuncture in treating Bell’s palsy. The findings showed significant difference between the two groups of patients using the FDI score and House-Brakcman scale. The consistent results that have come forth from numerous clinical trials are a strong indication that acupuncture actually works across the board. While each patient or sample set may have a unique reaction, the general agreement is that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese approaches work towards alleviating the suffering of those affected by Bell’s palsy.

If you have been afflicted with this condition do yourself a favor and call us for a free consultation. We are confident that we can help!

 

References

Greco A, Gallo A, Fusconi M, et al. Bell’s palsy and autoimmunity. Autoimmune Rev. 2012;12:323–28.

Qiu XH, Xie XK, Xie K. Point-through-point acupuncture for in treating peripheral facial issues paralysis.2006

Hou YL, Li ZC, Ouyang Q, Li X, Li H, Zhao M. Observation on therapeutic use of acupuncture and He-Ne laser radiation on facial paralysis.2008

https://medlineplus.gov/bellspalsy.html

http://pubs.sciepub.com/ijdsr/2/5A/1/

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcp041120#t=article