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Acupuncture for Bell's Palsy

Bell’s palsy is a sudden weakness or paralysis of one side of the face. It is caused by inflammation or damage to the facial nerve. It is usually temporary – most people recover fully.

What is Bell’s palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles that usually affects just one side of the face.

It is thought to be mainly caused by an infection with a virus.

The infection inflames or puts pressure on the nerve that controls your facial muscles. It can be mild, or it can be severe.

Most people recover without treatment in 3 to 9 months.

Bell’s palsy signs and symptoms

The main symptom is weakness or paralysis of one side of the face. It usually is at its worst within 2 to 3 days of starting. It can also cause:

  • drooping eyelid or difficulty closing one eye

  • difficulty smiling and making facial expressions

  • drooping of one side of the mouth

  • difficulty eating and drinking

  • drooling

  • pain or sensitivity around the affected area

  • headache

  • loss of taste

  • changes in the amount of tears or saliva

How acupuncture can help you?

According to the article from British Acupuncture Council, if you plan to have acupuncture treatment, the sooner the better. There is a certain amount of research evidence to support the use of acupuncture, and although it falls a long way short of being conclusive, as our factsheet shows

Clinical trials suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as corticosteroids and may improve recovery in patients with Bell's palsy, either used alone or in combination with drug treatment (Tong 2009; Li 2004). Note though that most of the trials to date have been of poor quality which allows only tentative conclusions to be reached (Chen 2010). (See Table overleaf)

Acupuncture may help in the treatment of Bell's palsy by:

  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007, Zijstra 2003);

  • enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing the diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles (Komori 2009);

  • nerve and muscular stimulation (Cheng 2009).

Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie’s latest Vanity Fair interview laid bare the damage her divorce from another Hollywood powerhouse Brad Pitt did to her health.

“Sometimes women in families put themselves last,” she says, “until it manifests itself in their own health.” She told the magazine that she suffered from Bell’s Palsy, a temporary partial paralysis of the face, and that acupuncture helped her recover fully.

Angelina Jolie says she recovered completely with the help of acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine, in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body, often by inserting thin needles through the skin.

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