acupuncture for bells palsy calgary nw

Bell’s Palsy is a medical enigma that brings sudden, temporary paralysis to the face, affecting thousands each year. Its causes, while not entirely understood, are linked to inflammation of the facial nerve. 

Despite its mysterious nature, Bell’s Palsy has seen promising responses to various treatments, including acupuncture. This blog post delves into the role of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy in the recovery from Bell’s palsy.

Understanding Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a relatively rare condition that affects 11 to 40 individuals for every 100,000 annually (this figure may vary depending on geographic location). Bell’s palsy is a sudden paralysis of the face that is characterized by weakness or drooping of the face. In most cases, the condition is temporary but in rare cases, it may become permanent. 

The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, but it is believed to be associated with inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve, which is the nerve that controls a side of the face. It accounts for around 50% of all cases of facial nerve palsy.  

There are several linked causes which include:

  • Viral infections (Herpes simplex virus, influenza, Epstein-Barr)
  • Autoimmune factors 
  • Genetic predisposition 
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory infections 
  • Third-trimester pregnancy

Bell’s Palsy recovery varies from person to person. The standard timeline of recovery can range from 2 weeks up to 6 months.

Diagnosing Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning there is no clear or standard method to test or confirm a diagnosis. A clinical assessment is made based on your medical history, lifestyle, onset of symptoms, and a neurological examination to rule out other possible causes such as a stroke.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy

Symptoms typically fully develop over a 72-hour period. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles on one side of the face
  • Eyelid drooping
  • Inability to fully close the eye
  • Dry eye due to inability to close eyelid completely
  • Excessive tearing
  • Drooping of the corner of the mouth
  • Impaired or loss of taste
  • Difficulty with eating due to muscle weakness, causing food to become trapped
  • Drooling
  • Altered sensation on the affected side of the face
  • Ear pain
  • Increased sensitivity to sound

Treating Bell’s palsy with acupuncture

Acupuncture is used as an adjunctive therapy, alongside other techniques and exercises. It is important to note that acupuncture alone will not “cure” Bell’s Palsy. 

There has been research (article 1, article 2, article 3) that suggests acupuncture is an effective and beneficial treatment for those with Bell’s palsy to help restore facial muscle function and overall recovery.

What is the most effective treatment for Bell’s palsy?

As Bell’s Palsy remains a condition of exclusion, there is no method to determine the “best” treatment for it. However, there is evidence to suggest that acupuncture is an effective adjunctive therapy to help support you on your rehab journey. Acupuncture is linked with the facilitation of nerve regeneration, reduction in inflammation, as well as reduction in pain and stress. 

Typically, it is noted that the earlier you start with acupuncture, the quicker you can see results and the better outcomes you can expect. However, this is not to say that those with chronic or long-lasting symptoms of Bell’s palsy won’t benefit from acupuncture. 

At Market Mall Physio & Chiro, we will always work with you and your primary physician to help create a personalized plan of care that ensures seamless treatment and rehabilitation. This plan of care will detail the treatment modalities we employ, home exercise programs, and any additional information we think your doctor should be aware of. 

What to avoid if you have Bell’s palsy

If you are struggling with Bell’s palsy, it is important to implement certain lifestyle modifications and avoid things that could exacerbate your condition. These include:

  • Excessive facial exercises: Often, you will want to try and exercise facial muscles by creating grandiose expressions. However, this can create a further imbalance in the facial muscles. Always consult your healthcare practitioner before starting facial exercises.
  • Neglecting eye care: A common symptom of Bell’s palsy is the inability to fully close the eye on the affected side. It is important to seek out medical attention to prevent dryness and/or infection of the eyes. Your healthcare provider may prescribe the use of eye drops or wearing an eye patch during waking hours to prevent dryness or damage. 
  • Poor diet and excessive smoking or alcohol consumption: You must ensure a balanced diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Optimizing your diet will set you up for a faster, more effective recovery. Staying hydrated is also essential and cutting back on or completely cutting out habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also support recovery.
  • Mismanaging stress: There is nothing worse than someone telling you to “stop being stressed”. However, with Bell’s Palsy, it is normal to have a higher emotional, physical and psychological stress response. High-stress responses are directly linked with high cortisol levels, which in turn is directly linked to reducing our capacity to recover from injuries. Use friends, families or professional healthcare providers to help you manage stress. You may incorporate self-relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and/or relaxation exercises.
  • Neglecting regular follow-ups and appointments with your healthcare team: This helps to monitor your progress, make adjustments to your plan of care and make referrals if needed. 

Reclaim your smile, reclaim your life

Bell’s palsy, with its sudden onset and distressing symptoms, can be a daunting challenge. Yet, through the integration of acupuncture, there is hope for a swift and effective recovery. 

At Market Mall Physio & Chiro in Calgary NW, we understand the challenges those living with Bell’s palsy face. Our team is dedicated to creating personalized care plans that address your unique needs, fostering a path to recovery that is both efficient and comprehensive. Contact us today to get started!

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