The Eastern Medicine view of Bell's palsy:
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the good health of an individual is dependent on the smooth flow of energy or Qi (Chee) in and around the body. This energy flows through the body in meridians or pathways and blockage or disruption of the flow results in pain or disease. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine sterile needles into specially selected acupuncture points, helping to re-establish the smooth flow of energy.
In China, Bell’s palsy is called Zhong Feng which literally translates to “Wind Attack.” It is believed that Bell’s palsy is caused when Wind and Cold invade the meridians, muscles and tendons of the face. This frequently happens when the immune system is deficient and the body’s defenses are weak e.g. when someone has a cold or the flu. The normal flow of Qi and Blood is disrupted in the face resulting in malnourishment of the facial muscles and tendons. In Chinese medicine symptoms of Qi and Blood deficiency include muscle weakness or paralysis, numbness and tingling; these corresponding to the symptoms produced by irritation of the 7th cranial (facial) nerve.
The goal of treatment is to expel the Wind-Cold from the meridians, improve the circulation of Qi and Blood to nourish the muscles and restore nerve and muscle function. As muscle contraction improves, the treatment also aims to enhance the body’s defenses strengthening the individuals’ immune system.
Initially treatment focuses on using acupuncture points on the face and back of the head to expel the Wind and Cold. The acupuncture points that are selected on the face correspond anatomically to the paralyzed facial muscles. Depending on the individuals history a few additional points may be used.
Who gets Bell's Palsy?
It appears to affect men and women equally although the incidence is higher in pregnant women, diabetics and those who have influenza, the common cold, or some other upper respiratory disorder. More and more evidence suggests that the main cause of Bell’s palsy is latent herpes virus: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes zoster virus (Chicken Pox.)
Symptoms of Bell's Palsy
The onset of Bell’s palsy is typically sudden with maximal facial weakness developing within the first 48 hours. The main symptoms are a decreased ability to close the eye, smile, puff out the cheeks, wrinkle the brow or nose. Excess or decrease in tearing and drooling may also occur. In some instances there may be pain behind the ear or jaw, ringing in the ear(s), hypersensitivity to sound. Because of the muscle weakness and possible numbness, functional activities such as eating and drinking can become very difficult. Although the degree of paralysis and the resulting impairment is dependent on the amount of irritation or compression of facial nerve any of these impairments are distressing to an individual.