What Is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s Palsy is a dysfunction of the seventh cranial nerve – the facial nerve. This nerve is responsible for the muscle movement of the entire front of the face. It is a bi-lateral nerve and thus each nerve is responsible for one side of the face. When a person has Bell’s Palsy it is relatively easy to diagnose.
It almost always presents as one-sided paralysis of the face. Usually the patient will be unable to close one eye and the blink and tearing functions of that eye will also be absent.
Common Features of Bell’s Palsy
When asked to smile, only one side of the face responds, so that the smile is only half a smile, looking like a very crocked smile.
If asked to raise their eyebrows, there will be no wrinkle of the forehead on the afflicted side.
The face presents as asymmetrical.
Taste and speech may also be affected. This will occur when the tongue is involved.
What Causes it and How is it Treated — Western Medicine
The condition is idiopathic– of unknown origin. There is some speculation that it may be viral, involving the Herpes Simplex virus or a functional cause.
Because of the viral theory, a course of anti-viral drugs, most commonly Valtrex, will be prescribed. There is also a theory that the nerve is either compressed or irritated and as a result is not able to send signals normally. To address this potential, another customary treatment is a course of prednisone. There is no real evidence to show that either treatment is effective.
What Causes it and How is it Treated — Traditional Chinese Medicine
From a traditional Chinese medical perspective, the condition is cause by wind in the facial channels. The Chinese name is Zhong Feng, which translates as Wind Attack. The traditional herbal formula used to treat this condition is Qian Zheng San which means Lead To Symmetry Powder.
In addition to the wind condition, it is often the case that these patients have a concurrent underlying deficiency. In theory wind cannot invade the channels if they are full with the normal healthy bodily substances. The theory is that the channels are not full — there is some deficiency of Qi, Blood or Yin that has allowed the wind to enter the channels. (These are some of the fundamental substances in Chinese Medicine). For more information on the TCM point of view, visit the Pacific College webpage. In treating this condition, the practitioner will design a treatment plan to release the wind and will also treat the deficiency.
Points That Can be Used to Treat Bell’s Palsy
Points such as Du 14 and GB20 will be used to release wind, as will LI4 (command of the face) and GB 34.
Local points will also be used to release wind and bring qi and blood to the face. These include Stomach 2, 4-7, UB 2, GB 1, 2, 14, LI 20 and 19. SJ 17 is very effective in opening the channels of the face, as is SJ 5. In addition to effecting the facial channels, SJ 17 stimulates the ends of the seventh cranial nerve. Protocol by Dr. Wang of the Yunnan Province Hospital of TCM.
Points for boosting system would include Stomach 36, Spleen 6, Ren 10 and 12 and the appropriate Back Shu points. Results of treatment with acupuncture can be very satisfactory. In addition to acupuncture, use of the herbal remedy Qian Zheng San is often deemed to be appropriate.
For more information on Bell’s Palsy and other conditions treatable with acupuncture call Elizabeth Healy at +1 917-968-2854.