Acupuncture For Bell’s Palsy: Does It Work?


We often use acupuncture to treat muscle pain and athletic injuries. But acupuncture can treat many conditions, including those that affect the nerves, like Bell’s palsy. This sudden onset of facial paralysis can occur at any time but is commonly seen in pregnant women, as well as people who have diabetes or have recently developed a cold, the flu, or another respiratory illness. Bell’s palsy is caused by damage to the 12th cranial nerve, and in most people, it resolves in 2 to 4 weeks. But, for some, the recovery time for this condition can last as long as 6 months. This is a puzzling affliction that can be quite scary, but with the help of acupuncture for Bell’s palsy, you can regain the use of your facial muscles faster.

Acupuncture supports healthy nerve and muscle function to eliminate facial paralysis and the other symptoms associated with Bell’s palsy. Whether you were just diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, or have been dealing with it for months, acupuncture can help you recover. 

What causes Bell’s palsy?

Scientists and medical experts still aren’t sure exactly what causes Bell’s palsy. However, it’s believed to be triggered by inflammation. It’s thought that, in certain individuals, and for whatever reason, the immune system targets the nerves that control the face, which ultimately leads to Bell’s palsy. 

Many conditions have been linked with Bell’s palsy, including diabetes, sarcoidosis, and high blood pressure. It’s also not uncommon for people who have recently come down with cold or flu-like symptoms to develop facial paralysis, as respiratory ailments seem to contribute to the condition. Bell’s palsy is associated with autoimmune disorders, too, including Lyme disease and multiple sclerosis. 

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy include a sudden onset of muscle weakness in the face (which usually develops in 48 hours or less, and usually affects only one side of the face), headaches, numbness of the affected area, inability to close the eye on the affected side, loss of sense of taste, hypersensitivity to sound, drooling, and excessive tearing. 

Acupuncture supports healthy nerve function

Bell’s palsy is not believed to be permanent, however, some patients have an easier time getting over their symptoms than others. Whether you were recently diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, or whether you’ve been trying to regain total control of your facial nerves and muscle for months, know that acupuncture can help. But how does it work?

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of Bell’s palsy for the same reason it’s a great treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, herniated discs, and fibromyalgia. Because it stimulates nerve healing

As acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin, this immediately triggers the nervous system. Stimulating the correct acupuncture points diverts a flow of blood and oxygen to the damaged nerves. This increase in circulation ensures your body has all of the materials it needs to regenerate damaged nerves so they can function normally again. 

The improved blood flow to the damaged nerves also helps reduce inflammation, which may be contributing to your symptoms. Keeping inflammation at a minimum, while simultaneously giving your body everything it needs to restore nerve function on its own, is primarily what makes acupuncture such an effective treatment for Bell’s palsy. In some cases, electro-acupuncture can be helpful for treating facial nerve paralysis. But soothing nerves isn’t the only way acupuncture helps Bell’s palsy patients. It can help them in other ways, too!

Acupuncture encourages muscle function

When the nerves that control your face are inflamed, it becomes difficult, or even impossible, to use your facial muscles, which can lead to muscle atrophy. 

One of the ways that acupuncture helps Bell’s palsy patients overcome their symptoms is by encouraging healthy facial muscle function. In some cases, we may insert acupuncture needles into your facial muscles (don’t worry, the needles don’t go in very far!), and manipulate them throughout your session to stimulate muscle contraction and relaxation. 

See, as the needles are inserted, they create microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, which trigger the body’s healing response, diverting resources in the form of oxygenated red blood cells to the muscles. The micro-tears also encourage the muscles to relax fully. Muscles must be able to relax completely to contract properly.  

Acupuncture helps stimulate facial muscles, even when they aren’t working properly, so they don’t atrophy during Bell’s palsy-associated paralysis. This, combined with acupuncture’s nerve-regenerating benefits, makes it easier for Bell’s palsy patients to recover more fully and more quickly.

Acupuncture eases the symptoms associated with Bell’s palsy

Because facial paralysis is the major symptom associated with Bell’s palsy, that’s the symptom most patients want to address. But what about the other symptoms of Bell’s palsy? The excessive tear production, the loss of sense of taste, and the headaches — can acupuncture help patients overcome those issues, too? As it turns out, it can!

Interestingly, acupuncture is an effective treatment for dry eyes and watery eyes. Regular sessions can help reduce the teariness that so many Bell’s palsy patients struggle with, while also helping them avoid dry eye symptoms, which may develop if the patient’s paralysis prevents them from closing their eyes. 

Many Bell’s palsy patients also suffer from a diminished or loss of sense of taste. Acupuncture’s regulatory effect on the olfactory system improves the body’s sense of taste, so you can get back to enjoying your food. Because acupuncture also reduces inflammation, which may contribute to loss of taste bud function, it can help restore taste bud function much faster. 

Headaches are another common complaint among Bell’s palsy sufferers, but the good news is, that acupuncture can help with that symptom, too. Acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters that naturally raise your body’s pain threshold. So, you see? Acupuncture is a fantastic treatment option for Bell’s palsy patients because it can be used to address the major symptoms and the minor symptoms associated with the condition. 

Book your appointment today

Contact Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture today to learn more about how acupuncture can help you as you recover from Bell’s palsy. 

From your very first appointment, we’ll help you get to the bottom of your health issues and create a customized treatment plan that enables you to overcome them. 

Get in touch with us to book an appointment, and take the first steps on your health and wellness journey. 

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