Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s palsy is a condition causing temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face.

It is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Symptoms vary from person to person. Bell’s palsy can also affect the eyelid and mouth, making it difficult to close and open them. Rarely, it can affect both sides of a person’s face. It is believed that Bell’s palsy results from inflammation of the facial nerve caused by a viral infection, such as the herpes virus.

Bell’s palsy is a rare condition, most common in people aged 15-60. Most people notice an improvement in their symptoms after about two to three weeks but a complete recovery can take up to nine months. The recovery time varies from person to person and will depend on the amount of nerve damage. 13-16% of sufferers are left with facial weakness, possible facial dysfunction and disfigurement and difficulty speaking, eating and drinking. Conventional medical treatment typically includes use of corticosteroids, antiviral medication and eye protection. Bell’s palsy may reoccur in up to 14% of people, especially if there is a family history of the condition.

Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy
A World Health Organisation review and report on controlled acupuncture clinical trials (2003) lists Bell’s Palsy as one of the “conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed”. More recent studies suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as as corticosteroids and may improve recovery in Bell’s Palsy, whether used alone or alongside conventional medical therapy.

It is believed that acupuncture may help Bell’s Palsy by:

  • reducing inflammation
  • enhancing local circulation
  • stimulating facial nerves and muscles

Acupuncture may also be used to help treat facial paralysis or weakness following stroke.

Treating Bell’s Palsy
“From a Chinese Medicine viewpoint, if you have Bell’s Palsy due to an infection, the chances are that you were deficient (run down) to begin with. Acupuncture can help build your immune function and address any underlying imbalances. In addition to helping treat current symptoms, acupuncture may also help prevent reoccurrences in the future.”

Judy Bowen-Jones Lic Ac BSc Hons Ac MBAcC
Further Information

World Health Organization 2002. Acupuncture: Review and Analysis on Controlled Clinical Trials – http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/pdf/s4926e/s4926e.pdf

Research Fact Sheets

For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.

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