Bell's palsy is a facial paralysis caused by an irritation of cranial nerve VII (seven) with no apparent cause. Cranial nerve VII controls most facial muscles connected with the eye, mouth and jaw causing difficulty blinking or closing the eye. The nerve also controls the function of certain salivary glands and tear glands.
In my opinion, Bell’s palsy is a minor form of stroke. It usually causes weakness on only one side, like a stroke. The trigeminal nerve is involved for this cause. Nerve tension between left and right sides is supposed to be equal; however one side’s nerve is stronger than the other, pulling to one side and making this symptom.
Some experience similar symptoms, such as feeling slack a few days before the outbreak, and stiff neck or pains under an ear as in a common cold attack. Some experience symptoms when fatigue or stress contributes to a relatively weaker body. Some experience Bell’s palsy symptoms with overeating, unbalanced diet and nutrition.
According to TCM theory, the reason is Qi and blood deficiency on stomach and small intestine and large intestine. These meridians are located at the face.
Many find something wrong when they try to wash their mouth. When they gargle with water, the water leaks from one side of the mouth. They try to close their mouth tight, but their lips don’t close. When they look at the mirror carefully, one side of their face is distorted. When they smile, the look becomes noticeably worse. One thing that should be mentioned, there is no pain at all on most cases. One can’t close an eye on the paralyzed side. One can’t make wrinkles on forehead. Some experience spontaneous tears. They cannot move their eyebrow. Some experience difficulty in talking or hearing. Some lose their appetite.
Causes of Bell's palsy
The cause of the nerve irritation associated with Bell’s palsy is unknown. Exposure to cold is a frequently cited cause – for example, driving with a car window open in cold weather, sleeping with the window open or A/C or fan during night, or sleeping on wet and cold condition after drinking or after sleeping on the rock at camps.
Three ways to treat this cause
- Patient uses ai-ye (folium artemisiae argyi) and sea salt in the home. All details are instructed during treatment.
- Practitioner diagnoses a patient to try to find which nerve causes problems. We found trigeminal nerves and facial nerves involved most of time. Some patients feel less stiffness on the face from the first acupuncture treatment session and some feel better after 3 or more sessions depending on the seriousness.
- We also offer an herb formula that helps this symptom. There are many well known formulas in oriental medicines, as this kind of symptom also has happened in the past.
Bell’s palsy and Steroids
Most patients go to the medical doctor’s office before they come to me. Most have gotten two kinds of advice.
Most patients are surprised when they get Bell’s palsy and try to find MD or go to the emergency room. Some pay a few thousand dollars for the test at the emergency room. It may be better off to wait until the real emergency happens. Most MD prescribes steroids and say it may take 2-6 months to become normalized and take a good rest.
I believe the steroid is not good for this case. Steroids are anti-inflammatory drugs. Most Bell’s palsy is caused by the cold. To remove the heat by steroids doesn’t seem to a right treatment. There was no improvement at all in most cases.
Oriental Herbs comprised of a warm nature makes my patient tingle and move into the face. It usually takes 4-8 times of acupuncture treatments in most cases.
I urge every Bell’s Palsy patient to come to acupuncture clinics rather than take steroid treatments which are not good for Bell’s Palsy.
Treatment example for Bell's Palsy
Bell’s palsy for 1 1/2 month
It was very hot on August 2, 2008. She slept while the air conditioner was on all night. When she woke up in the morning, she felt some numbness on the face. She looked at the mirror. Her right face was paralyzed. She had difficulty opening and closing her eye on the right side. When she smiles, her mouth deviates to the left side. Her extremities look OK.
There was no different feeling than before. The only problem was on her right side of the face.
She went to her M.D. The doctor told her to massage her face without any prescription. She tried, but had no good result at all.
She stopped going to work since having this symptom. Her husband also couldn’t go to work as his wife was struggling. According to the husband, his wife looked at the mirror all day. All these things made this family desperate at this moment.
- She is 50 years old.
- She usually feels warm.
- She sweats at night these days.
- She doesn’t have any pain. She had a headache right after bells palsy.
- She doesn’t have any dizziness.
- Her hearing is normal.
- Her eyes are itchy and tear a lot.
- She is not thirsty and drinks room temperature water.
- She sleeps about 7 hours and 30 minutes a day.
- Her appetite is poor and digestion is poor, too.
- She wakes up 3 times at night.
- She has constipation and goes to bowel movement once or twice a day.
- She still has menstruation in every 25-28 days regularly and lasts 2.5 days. The amount is scanty. The color is dark red. There are no blood clots. There is no pain at all before, during or after menstruation. She never got pregnant, but one time abortion. She never used birth control pills.
- Her life style is a little stressful and she becomes easily angry.
Pattern identification: Bell’s palsy due to Liver yang rising
Treatment principle: Extinguish Liver yang
After 5 sessions of acupuncture, she completely recovered.
What patient can do in the home?
- Making the numbed side warm is a very good idea.
- Try to chew a chewing gum on the numbed side.
- Don’t worry too much. Otherwise this emotion may develop into depression, especially in female cases.
Back & Neck pain
CPR - New Concept
Frequent urination (Prostate)
High blood pressure
Olfactory Disorder (Difficult Smelling)
Stress & Anxiety