Bell’s Palsy: Recovery with Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

Written by: Dr. Mary Froeba, DAcOM LAc

Idiopathic peripheral facial nerve paralysis, or Bell’s Palsy, typically appears as drooping of the brow, eye, cheek, and mouth on one side of the face. This follows after trauma or damage to the Cranial Nerve VII that runs throughout the face. There is still plenty to be learned about Bell’s Palsy but the damage to this cranial nerve is likely caused by a virus, such as cold sores or viral meningitis.

Bell’s Palsy is also called Refrigerator Palsy, as patients often report having a cold draft or breeze on their faces when the paralysis began. This cold wind could be naturally occurring outdoors or produced indoors by a fan or HVAC system. Such breezes are not seen as the cause of Bell’s Palsy, but rather the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Who is at risk for Bell’s Palsy

First things first: Bell’s Palsy isn’t that common! It is easy to read a medical blog and get worried you are at risk so let’s just take the fear out now: According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 40,000 Americans are afflicted a year. While that is a lot of people, that is only 0.0001% of the American population.

With that said, individuals with diabetes, cold sores, or upper respiratory ailments are at a higher risk. These groups of people should avoid direct drafts of cold air, and be mindful of sugar intake to reduce inflammation risk.

What to do if you suspect you have Bell’s Palsy

Sudden loss of facial control can mean more than one thing. It is also a symptom of other serious medical events. In potential emergencies, time should not be wasted. Do not spend any time trying to self-diagnose. Instead, go straight to the Emergency Room.

Either call 911 or have someone drive you to the ER

Allow the Medical Doctors to differentiate between Bell’s Palsy and other conditions. Your only job is to get to the ER quickly and safely.

What to do when you get a Bell’s Palsy diagnosis

Your Medical Doctor may prescribe you antivirals and/or steroids. Once you are released, connect with your Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). The sooner they can get to work, the higher the potential for nerve recovery.

 

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Bell’s Palsy

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a very old medicine practiced and improved upon over centuries. There are records from as far back as the 12th century that discuss the same risk factors and causes of Bell’s Palsy as recognized by modern-day scientists. TCM is based on centuries of observation and not much about Bell’s Palsy would have changed in that time except the advent of air conditioning and refrigeration, so cold breezes are no longer seasonally dependent!

Therefore, acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy is very well developed and highly successful, especially when combined with oral medications such as corticosteroids and/or a customized herbal prescription.

The Treatment of Bell’s Palsy by Dr. Mary Froeba, DAcOM LAc

If you get a diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy just know that I’ve got you! Get on my schedule and we will come up with a plan specific to you. Every body is different so each person will need their own amount of time and type of attention.

With that said, there are a few generalizations that are safe to make. Patients who come to see me should expect acupuncture of the face, hands, and feet. Where it is safe and appropriate, I will also apply electrical stimulation to help re-awaken the damaged Cranial Nerve VII. It is important that patient’s let me know if they have a pacemaker or any metal implants.

Additionally, I can create a custom herbal prescription to revitalize the affected Cranial Nerve VII and reduce the risk of recurrence. For this prescription, I would need to get a complete pharmaceutical and supplement list that you are taking.

This photo was taken 17 days after the onset of Bell’s Palsy, directly before the patient’s first treatment with Dr. Froeba. Note the inability to smile on the left side of the face.

The patient had completed one round of steroids and antivirals prior to this visit.

This photo was taken one month later.

 

This patient had completed a second round of steroids by his fourth visit. After 7 visits that included acupuncture and electrical stimulation in Dr. Froeba’s office, and one round of a custom herbal prescription, his facial paralysis was declared resolved.

Written consent to disclose photo and medical information is on secure file at Apex Sports Medicine

How can Bell’s Palsy be prevented?

Again, Bell’s Palsy is not common. You will probably never see it in person your whole life! With that said, if you are prone to head colds and other upper respiratory infections, frequent breakouts of cold sores, and/or you have diabetes, redirect the fan or your air conditioning. Let the air flow through the room but not directly on your face.

The Take-away

You probably won’t ever see or experience Bell’s Palsy in your life, but if you do, you are now prepared! To recap, if you (or someone you know) experience a sudden loss of facial muscles, don’t waste time. Get to an ER by calling 911 or getting a ride. After you are released, call your Licensed Acupuncturist. The sooner they can help you, the better your odds of a full recovery!

Book now with Dr. Mary Froeba DAcOM, LAc >

Additional References

  1. National Institute of Health. Bell’s Palsy Fact Sheet. [Online] https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/bells-palsy-fact-sheet.
  2. Understanding Bell’s Palsy Treatment. Web MD. [Online] [Cited: November 20, 2019.] https://www.webmd.com/brain/understanding-bells-palsy-treatment.
  3. Acupuncture Found Effective for Bell’s Palsy. Acupuncture Continuing Education News. [Online] [Cited: November 20, 2019.] https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1814-acupuncture-found-effective-for-bell-s-palsy.
  4. Bensky. Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas & Strategies. Seattle: Eastland Press, Incorporated, 1990. pp. 99, 100, 119.
  5. Yang, Tan. Yang shi jia zand fang. 1178.

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