Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy

Interestingly, China has one of the most cases of Bell’s palsy in the world. One Chinese province, Guangzhou, has so many people with this condition forcing the local physicians to come up with truly good treatment strategies. Chinese physicians utilize different modalities of traditional Chinese medicine that they have adopted in the successful treatment of their patients.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective View of Bell’s palsy

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine of TCM, the well-being of a person is often grounded in the normal flow of vital energy the Chinese term as Chi or Qi. This vital energy travels throughout the body via vessels of energy known as meridians – obstructions or blockages that develop in them disrupt the flow of Chi resulting in pain and/or disease. Acupuncture, which is the use of ultra thin needles inserted into determined acupuncture points, help to restore the normal flow of Chi.

Bell’s palsy is termed Zhong Feng in China. This literally means “Wind Attack.” According to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, Bell’s palsy is the result of Cold and Wind invading the tendons, muscles and meridians of the face. This condition often occurs when a deficient immune system exists (when a person has the flu or cold, for example). The healthy flow of Blood and Chi in the face is disrupted leading to the nourishment of the facial tendons and muscles. TCM symptoms of Blood and Chi include tingling, numbness and paralysis or weakness of the muscles. These symptoms are caused by irritation of the 7th cranial (facial) nerve.

The objective of acupuncturists and TCM practitioners in treating Bell’s palsy is to take out the Cold-Wind from the meridians, better the flow of Blood and Chi to strengthen and nourish the muscles and bring back the normal function of the facial muscle and nerve. Along with the improvement of the facial muscle function, treatment also is geared into strengthening the defense mechanisms of the body particularly the immune system of the person.

Bell’s palsy treatment firstly needs to needle acupuncture points on the back of the patient’s head and face to remove the Cold and Wind. The acupuncture points on the face that are chosen for treatment correspond physiologically to the muscles of the face that are paralyzed. Additional acupuncture points may be treated based on the symptoms manifested and the medical history of the patient.

Besides acupuncture, other TCM treatments like cupping and electro acupuncture can be also chosen to treat Bell’s palsy. Electro acupuncture is a modern version of traditional acupuncture stimulates needles to boost the effect of acupuncture. Electro acupuncture is usually utilized in more severe or chronic instances of Bell’s palsy.

Who gets Bell’s palsy?

Based on statistics coming from the National Institutes of Health, there are about 40,000 Americans suffering from Bell’s palsy each year. This disorder affects both women and men equally although the risk is higher in diabetics, pregnant women, and those who have the common cold, influenza or other upper respiratory disorder. Recent clinical studies have proven more and more that Bell’s palsy is caused by Chicken Pox (herpes zoster virus), herpes simplex virus type 1 and other types of herpes virus.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy usually initially develops suddenly with maximal weakening of the facial muscles within a couple of days. Its main symptoms may include wrinkling in the nose or brow, puffing of the cheeks, difficulty in closing the affected eye. Excessive decrease or increase in drooling and tearing may also happen. There occasionally may be hypersensitivity to sound, ringing in the ear or ears and pain behind the jaw or ear. Because of possible numbness and muscle paralysis, functional activities such as drinking and eating can become quite hard to do. Although the severity of the paralysis and the eventual impairment is based on the magnitude of compression or irritation of the facial nerve – all of these impairments are undoubtedly so distressing to the sufferer.