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Acupuncture for Bell's Palsy

By Kimberly Guorong Du

In traditional Chinese medical terminology, Bell's Palsy is facial paralysis. There are many symptoms that come with this condition. The most prominent ones are an awry mouth along with the inability to control the closing and opening of the eyelids. On the paralyzed side of the face, patients also have symptoms such as drooling, tearing, disappearing of wrinkles, distorting of the tongue, and inability to furrow eyebrows, close their mouths or puff out their cheeks. Furthermore, patients are unable to whistle.

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, the symptoms associated with facial paralysis are induced by exogenous pathogenic wind-cold - i.e. being exposed to too much cold wind. The symptoms range from mild to severe. Traditional Chinese medicine distinguishes facial paralysis into Yin syndrome and Yang syndrome. These two syndromes can be differentiated through the Chinese medical four diagnostic examinations (visual observing, listening and smelling, inquiries, and touching). These examinations include pulse readings, observing the physical appearance of the tongue and acupuncture treatment tests.

Acupuncture can be a treatment of choice for sufferers of Bell's palsy. The goal of acupuncture treatment is to eliminate wind, stimulate patient's facial nervous system, help patients to recover the balance between yin and yang, regulate Qi and blood in the Shaoyang and Yangming channels in order to remove obstruction, and restore facial nerve function. Both Yin and Yang syndrome can be treated or alleviated by using acupuncture with pressure on a combination of acupoints. While treatment for Yang syndrome usually lasts a couple of weeks to a month, treatment for Yin syndrome may last several months. In some really rare cases, it may last up to a year. For some chronic cases the acupuncture treatment usually includes some special treating methods, such as moxibustion, cupping, and Chinese herbal medicine. Accurate diagnosis, accurate selection of acupoints and clinical experience play a critical role in effectively treating Bell's palsy with acupuncture.

For optimal results, it is best to start treatment within two weeks of noticing the condition. If the face is left to convalesce on its own, there is a great risk of damaging the cornea, from lack of moisture in the eye. When not treated promptly, Yang syndrome may develop into Yin syndrome. Patients who have not been administered can still undergo acupunctural treatment. Although the process may take longer, there is still a great chance for recovery. After acupuncture treatment about 85% of the patients with Bell's palsy achieve complete recovery; others can achieve recovery close to normalcy.