A Gentle Japanese Needling Approach to Treating Bell's Palsy
Bell’s Palsy is a common chief complaint treated in a TCM clinic, and is one where the e ectiveness of acupuncture is visibly observed. Where conventional medicine typically expects recovery within six months, my patients usually experience recovery within three weeks. Although I’ve treated this condition many times over the years, I’ve seen a recent increase in patients seeking acupuncture immediately upon experiencing facial paralysis as
their primary form of treatment, likely due to readily available information on the effectiveness of acupuncture for this condition.
Bell’s Palsy: Western vs. Eastern Medicine
Bell's palsy, also known as facial palsy, causes a rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of the face. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the cranial nerve VII (the facial nerve) that results in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. It may be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection. Bell's palsy is typically temporary, with improvement beginning within a few weeks to complete recovery within six months. Occasionally Bell's palsy symptoms can be experienced for life, or can recur. Commonly used medications to treat Bell's palsy include corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex), may stop the progression of the infection if a virus is known to have caused it. However, corticosteroids have been found to improve outcomes while anti-viral drugs have not.
Chinese medicine attributes the condition mainly to Wind invasion obstructing the collaterals. This disrupts the flow of Qi and Blood, preventing the vessels and muscles from receiving necessary nourishment. This could be Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat, or Wind-Phlegm. Blood stasis obstructing the collaterals is another possible diagnosis. Interestingly, when questioning patients during initial intake the patient usually was exposed to wind the day before the sudden onset. Common examples are being outside on a windy day such as at the beach, or playing golf with neck exposed and remembering sensitivity to wind, sleeping under a fan or air conditioning vent, or driving in a convertible car. However, the most common is the extreme stress before onset.
Read Dr Fiorani's published article: "A Gentle Japanese Needling Approach to Treating Bell's Palsy"