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Dear Fran: Bell’s Palsy

Posted Mar 31 2011 5:04pm

Dear Fran,

A few days ago, it started with the drooping of my eyebrow…by the end of the day my eyes can’t shut close, eyebrows can’t lift up, and half of my face has no sensation. Thought I had a stroke, until I was told I got Bells Palsy. I’m horrified. I’ve researched a lot and worried about lot the long-term affects of this virus: facial muscle does not fully recovery, sensitive to sounds, pain in the back of the ear etc. Other than taking on antiviral, steroid pills, and lots of patience, what is Chinese Medicine’s intake on Bells Palsy?

Frustrating Reader

Bell's Palsy and Chinese Medicine

Well, what causes Bell’s Palsy?

The combination of external and internal factor triggers moments of low-defenses in the immune system, catching on the virus, causing the meridians of the facial muscle to seize (in western term: inflammation of the facial nerve). The factors are as follows:

  • external factor: temperature changes, when winter turns to spring, and fall turns to winter.
  • internal factor: profuse sweating in outdoor setting, binging and drinking, high intensity environment, quick movements.

Types of Bell’s Palsy

In chinese hospitals, we have noticed the increase in Bell’s Palsy during the change of seasons: more so winter to spring, or fall to winter. And in individuals we notice the people who sweats profusely in outdoor setting, working in an intense environment, extreme binging or drinking habits are often the one who catches on Bell’s Palsy. Even then, these candidates each manifest different symptoms on top of the typical droopy face, difficulty chewing food, wrinkling the forehead etc…; as so TCM practitioners has categorized this virus into the following types:

  1. Wind induced: a tendency to be scared of cold and wind, habit of having cold sweats
  2. Phlegm-heat induced: a tendency to feel feverish, may have sore throat, pain behind the ear, sensitive to sounds
  3. Stagnation induced: recovery slower than standard time, ranging from 3~6 months, residue of the symptoms can still be felt

Treatment Options

Other than the standard western regime, acupuncture has been statistically researched in China to be very affective for peripheral facial paralysis, in combination with western medicine. Patients who start their treatments within the first two weeks of the virus has a recovery rate of 77.2%, compare to if treatments started from the 2nd to 4th week (the recovery rate then decreased to 51.8%). With the combination of early acupuncture, the necessity of steroid usage substantially decreased within a month.  Acupuncture treatments along with local cupping are recommended for every other day for two weeks, gradually decreased according to the recovery rate of the patient. Acupuncture treatments varies in these three phases:

  1. Acute phase: light technique at the local area, more points and needling technique outside the local area.
  2. Sub-acute phase: adding gentle stimulation and more needles at the local area, continue with points and technique outside the local area.
  3. Recovery phase: adding more stimulation, electrical stimulation, massaging, along with other points around the body.

Other Cares

  • moxabustion for wind induced patients
  • heat lamp therapy
  • eye drops to prevent dryness, wearing sunglasses from wind
  • keeping warm
  • taking B-complex


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