Bell’s Palsy can be sudden, and frightening. You could go to bed one night feeling fine, but wake up in the morning with one side of your face drooping. And this is exactly what happened to my client, Lee. He awoke with the right side of his face paralysed. His right eye was drooping, as was his mouth, and it was difficult for him to close his eye. The whole side of his face was tingling and tender to the touch, and he had no taste. Lee also reported that he had a light headache, as if he had a hangover.
A visit to the GP
The first thing Lee did, of course, was go to his GP. He was immediately referred for a scan to rule out stroke or TIA which proved all clear. Lee was then prescribed a course of Prednisolone and a course of antibiotics. Prednisolone is the go-to medication for this type of thing. It is a steroid medication that helps alleviate inflammation, but it also carries the possible side-effects of weight gain, indigestion, insomnia and sweating a lot. It can also make you more prone to infections such as chickenpox or shingles!
However, after 10 days and still no relief, Lee contacted me
Bell’s Palsy is a sudden weakness or paralysis of muscles on one side of the face, due to malfunction of the 7th cranial nerve. This nerve moves the facial muscles, stimulates the salivary and tear glands, enables the front two thirds of the tongue to detect tastes. It also controls a muscle involved in hearing. So, worse case scenario, not only is one side of your face paralysed, but you can’t close an eye, hear out of one ear or taste certain flavours!
The cause is unknown
The cause is not really known, but it is thought that it could be a viral infection or an immune disorder that causes the facial nerve to swell. If doctors can find a cause, such as Lyme Disease or Sarcoidosis, they call this facial nerve palsy. But if they can find no cause, then they diagnose Bell’s Palsy.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), however, Bell’s palsy is diagnosed as an “External Wind-Cold attacking the channels of the face”. According to TCM principles, one of the main implications of this condition is an underlying qi (a person’s inherent energy) deficiency. In China, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to assist in Bell’s palsy recovery, and the initial treatment goal according to TCM would be to expel Wind and resolve Damp, as well as to invigorate qi and promote blood circulation to the face. Consistent acupuncture treatments (usually recommended once or twice per week) can help soothe a patient and expedite resolution of paralysis, and enhance nerve function.
Bell’s Palsy is a great deal more common in China where a huge proportion of the population still work in the fields, and the Chinese were very clear that it was exposure to the wind or to a sudden burst of wind bringing a different air temperature, especially hot to cold, which could cause this often distressing condition. In modern times, before air conditioning became more common it was not unusual to see patients who managed to bring it on by motorway driving on hot days with a window open on the driver’s side. However, the increasing amount of stress in modern life means that it is now possible for mental and emotional factors to come into play.
Acupuncture has an immediate affect
So Lee contacted me, and after an initial consultation I diagnosed a Wind Invasion, and we commenced treatment immediately. I used electro-acupuncture, which is a technique where a light electric current is put through the acupuncture needles. This stimulates nerve endings and the facial muscles on the affected side. Currently your GP will advice that most people (but not everyone) will make a full recovery in 3 – 4 months. However, after seeing me twice weekly for just 2 weeks, Lee was greatly improved, and by the 5th session he had made a full recovery. Lee was able to close his eye, taste food, and smile again!
See these before and after photos
At Session One
At Session Five