Facial nerve paralysis, better known as Bell’s palsy, is a malfunction of the facial nerve (7th cranial nerve). This is the nerve that governs the muscular movements of the face and when it malfunctions, can lead to muscle weakness or inability. Believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the facial nerve, Bell’s palsy affects on average 35,000 people in the United States each year. This condition can strike people of any age group although people around the age of 40 tend to have the most cases of Bell’s palsy each year. No reason has been found as to why this is so but medical experts believe it may be caused by a viral infection. Other individuals considered at risk for this condition include diabetes sufferers, people with respiratory illness, cold, or flu, and pregnant women. Some individuals who have experienced Bell’s palsy have noted getting headaches or severe gum or mouth, nose, or infections prior to developing Bell’s palsy.
One side the face is where most of the symptoms of Bell’s palsy are manifested. The symptoms can be mild to severe. Some of the things to expect when you suffer from Bell’s palsy include:
-Dry mouth, dry eye
-Weakness or twitching of the facial muscles
-Loss of taste
-Difficulty in making facial expressions, in grimacing, in speech, and in smiling
-Drooping of the corner of the mouth, of the eyelid, and of the affected side of the face
-Food falls in the mouth
-Drooping of the affected eyelid
-Problems closing the affected eye
-Face is pulled to the unaffected side along with stiffness and tingling or numbing sensation
Mild cases of Bell’s palsy usually require no treatment but severe cases may cause the symptoms to remain for years. Oftentimes, weeks or months are needed for the condition to heal itself. The weakness and inability of the facial muscles and an ugly face would prompt the patient to seek immediate treatment. Physical therapy and drugs such as anti-inflammatories, antvirals, or corticosteroids are the conventional modes of treatment for this condition. However, more and more are discovering that acupuncture can be a much better treatment for Bell’s palsy, severe or otherwise, than conventional modes of treatment.
A Bell’s palsy condition has a prognosis ranging from complete resolution after a few weeks (85% of the time), to longstanding Bell’s palsy symptoms such as facial paralysis (in about 15% of patients). Ruling out other factors that can cause facial paralysis is important. These factors include intracranial tumors, stroke, and other conditions that affect the central nervous system.
When treatment is started within the first weeks of the onset of symptoms, acupuncture is often quite effective in treating the facial paralysis related to Bell’s palsy. This treatment involves the stimulation of natural pressure points on the body to relieve inflammation, swelling, and pain by increasing the production of neurohormones, and neurotransmitters and by boosting local microcirculation in order to facilitate the healing process. Using disposable, filiform, and sterile needles, the acupuncturist inserts these needles into the skin into specific points throughout the body and face to generate therapeutic effects. One of the best things about acupuncture is that it has no harmful side effects that pharmaceutical drugs have.