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Boost Immunity, Speed Up Bell’s Palsy Recovery Naturally – Kampo Health

Man lying down while having acupuncture treatment

In this post, we will learn the nature and treatment of Bell’s Palsy and how we use Chinese medicine and Acupuncture to help my patient AL recover from Bell’s Palsy in 4 weeks at Kampo Health Toronto Clinic.

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a disorder marked by an abrupt, transient paralysis or weakness of the facial muscles on one side. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is not well understood, but it is thought to be a result of the inflammation of the facial nerve, which controls the muscles of the face. This inflammation may be triggered by a viral infection, most commonly the herpes simplex virus.

Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy:

Facial comparison between normal face and bell's palsy affected face
  • Sudden Weakness or Paralysis: The most common and noticeable symptom is the sudden onset of weakness or paralysis on one side of the face. This can make it difficult to close the eyes or smile on that side.
  • Drooping of the Face: The affected side of the face may appear droopy, and the individual may have difficulty making facial expressions on that side.
  • Loss of Taste: Some people with Bell’s palsy may experience a change in or loss of taste on the front two-thirds of the tongue.
  • Increased Sound Sensitivity: In some cases, there may be heightened sensitivity to sound in one ear on the affected side.
  • Tearing or Drooling: Difficulty controlling the muscles of the face may lead to increased tearing or drooling.
  • Loss of Eye Protection: The inability to close the eye on the affected side may result in a dry eye, making it important to use artificial tears and protect the eye, especially during sleep.
  • Altered Saliva Production: Some individuals may experience changes in saliva production, leading to either increased or decreased salivation.

It’s important to note that Bell’s palsy usually develops rapidly, reaching its peak within 48 hours. The severity of symptoms can vary, and while most people with Bell’s palsy recover fully, some may experience lingering effects such as mild weakness, facial twitching, or changes in taste.

How Long Can Bell’s Palsy Last?

Bell’s palsy is usually a temporary condition, and most people recover fully within three to six months with mainstay treatments, including medications to reduce inflammation such as glucocorticoids and antiviral medicine, physical therapy, and protection of the affected eye to prevent dryness and injury. If you suspect you have Bell’s palsy or are experiencing sudden facial weakness, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

In my practice, the recovery period from Bell’s Palsy can be significantly shortened from months to weeks with the help of Chinese medicine, including herbal medicine, acupuncture, and moxibustion therapy. However, please keep in mind that many other factors, such as age, general health, and underlying medical conditions, may also contribute to the recovery process. Therefore, in order to speed up the recovery from Bell’s Palsy, a customized treatment plan is necessary to achieve the optimal outcome for each individual.

How to Treat Bell’s Palsy? (West vs East)

In Chinese medicine, Bell’s Palsy is typically treated by herbal medicine and acupuncture. I will discuss this in detail in the later chapters. In reality, not everyone has access to Chinese medicine, nor is aware of Chinese medicine as an alternative to Western medicine. It is also important to know that you should always consult with your medical doctors first for any medical conditions before seeking any alternative treatment.

The allopathic treatment of Bell’s Palsy focuses on reducing symptoms, speeding up recovery, and preventing complications. Here are common approaches to the treatment of Bell’s palsy:

  1. Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are often prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve. These medications are most effective when started within the first few days of symptom onset.
  2. Antiviral Medications: Some healthcare providers may prescribe antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, especially if there is suspicion of a viral trigger, such as the herpes simplex virus. The use of antivirals is somewhat controversial, and their effectiveness in Bell’s palsy is not universally agreed upon.
  3. Eye Care: Protecting the eye on the affected side is crucial, as the inability to close the eye may lead to dryness and potential damage. Artificial tears, eye ointments, and, in some cases, an eye patch may be recommended.
  4. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises aim to maintain muscle tone, prevent muscle stiffness, and improve facial muscle strength and coordination. A physical therapist can provide guidance on exercises tailored to the individual’s needs.
  5. Protecting the Affected Side: Due to weakened muscles, taking precautions to prevent injury is important. For example, using eye protection at night and being cautious while eating can help avoid accidents.
  6. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate symptoms, so stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises or meditation, may be beneficial.

While these treatments can aid in recovery, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Most individuals with Bell’s palsy experience significant improvement within three to six months, and the majority recover fully. Follow-up appointments with a healthcare provider are important to monitor progress and address any complications or lingering symptoms.

Why Do People Get Bell’s Palsy? (West vs East)
Chinese medicine and Western medicine (allopathy) have very different views on the cause of Bell’s Palsy. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is not well understood by Western medicine, but it is generally believed to be related to viral infections, particularly the herpes simplex virus. Some factors are also proposed to contribute to the development of Bell’s palsy:

  • Viral Infections: The herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores, is commonly associated with Bell’s palsy. Other viruses, such as the varicella-zoster virus (which causes chickenpox and shingles), have also been linked to the condition.
  • Immune System Response: It is thought that the immune system’s response to a viral infection may lead to inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve (the seventh cranial nerve), resulting in the symptoms of Bell’s palsy.
  • Other Infections: Besides viral infections, bacterial and respiratory infections have also been linked to Bell’s palsy.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing Bell’s palsy, although this is not fully understood.
  • Other Factors: Other factors that may increase the risk of Bell’s palsy include diabetes, respiratory infections, and upper respiratory tract infections.

What Is Chinese Medicine’s View on Why People Get Bell’s Palsy?

Chinese medicine thinks of Bell’s Palsy very differently from the West. Instead of looking at the direct microbial cause as a virus, Chinese medicine looks at the foundation, which is the underlying health state of the body. In principle, Chinese medicine suggests that the occurrence of the disease is evidence of the absence of health and balance. The diagnosis and treatment of any diseases, including Bell’s Palsy, all stem from this view of health and disease.

Chinese medicine physicians view health as a state of balance between many opposing internal and external forces, and illness is seen as an imbalance or disruption of the state of balance. Specifically speaking, Bell’s palsy is believed to be attributed to the invasion of external pathogenic factors, such as Wind and Cold, which disrupt the normal function of the body, i.e. the flow of Qi and Blood. The condition is often seen as an indication of an underlying weakness in the body’s immune function, i.e. the defensive energy, or “Wei Qi.”

How Chinese Medicine Treats Bell’s Palsy?

Thus, the treatment of Chinese medicine is designed to focus on the recovery of “Wei Qi,” the immune function, and warming/restoring the affected neural pathway or the energy channels. In my practice, I prefer to use both herbal medicine and acupuncture/moxa therapy to speed up the recovery of Bell’s Palsy. These techniques help the body heal from external and internal causes simultaneously, especially with patients who have a weak constitution, like Seniors.

In the following chapter, I will discuss these two arms of Chinese medicine with a case study in detail.

Case: What Are The Best Kampo/TCM Herbs for Bell’s Palsy?

One day in November of 2023, a 60-year-old gentleman, AL, walked into my Toronto office at Bay St, seeking help for his newly developed Bell’s Palsy, which started the week prior. AL went to his general doctor and was prescribed corticosteroids and antiviral drugs. However, AL had Singaporean origins and had been exposed to Chinese medicine in the past, and believed that Chinese medicine could help him recover from Bell’s Palsy faster.

Upon examination, his right ear and face were affected, and he had trouble closing his eyes and moving his mouth. The condition began with ear and neck pain prior to the paralysis of the facial nerves. This is a typical presentation when a potential viral infection causes neurological impairment. Based on the information that I gathered through the Kampo/TCM assessment (link to first visit page) i.e. pulse checking, tongue observation, and Fukushin(link to fukushin post) (abdominal examination), I prescribed a Kampo herbal formula that combined two formulas: Xiao Chai Hu Tang(XCHT), and Ge Gen Tang(GGT). He informed me that the prescribed medication was causing him constipation, and for this reason, I added “Da Huang” (Rhizoma Rhei or Chinese rhubarb) into this formula to help move his bowel and detox the body. I believe the optimally functioning detoxification pathways are crucial during the healing process.

The reasons I chose these two formulas are as follows:

I mixed this formula in my office and told him to take it twice a day with warm water. During the 4 week-long treatment course, he was taking this formula along with the acupuncture therapy.

Can Acupuncture Help Me Recover From Bell’s Palsy?
In China and other East-Asian countries, Acupuncture is often the therapy of choice for treating neurological conditions, including Bell’s Palsy, due to its safety and efficacy. There is no evidence of harm that has been reported from acupuncture treatment of Bell’s Palsy. The efficacy and safety profile of acupuncture has been systematically studied from this research pager: Efficacy of Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy

In the case of AL, I selected the points based on the body area that has been affected. This included the Gallbladder, Triple Warmer, and Stomach meridians, as well as the points that address the underlying deficient defense energy. The points are: ST 5, ST7, ST36, SP6, TW5, GB1, GB34, Tai Yang, LI 4. The acupuncture was done twice a week. In the first few sessions, the progress was not very fast; after the 4th session, he started to notice a substantial improvement. By the 6th session, the Bell’s Palsy has recovered by nearly 100%.

How Often Should I Get Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy?

Patient laying down on while therapist proceeds in doing acupuncture procedures

The frequency of acupuncture therapy for this condition depends on the intensity. If the onset is recent (a week), most of my patients are able to get great results with twice-weekly visits. For chronic cases of Bell’s Palsy (lasting more than several months since onset), sessions are typically done once a week.

A Case of Kampo/TCM Treatment for Bell’s Palsy

After a month of acupuncture and herbal treatment, AL was discharged from the treatment with 100% recovery. He was very happy about the result, and so was I. The general estimation of the recovery period for Bell’s Palsy is 8 to 12 weeks or more. In the case of AL, Kampo/Chinese medicine kicked ass by a huge 50%+ margin!

It’s important to note that while some individuals may find relief from TCM practices, the efficacy of these approaches can vary, and scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness for Bell’s palsy may be limited. If you’re considering TCM or any alternative therapies, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, preferably one with knowledge of both conventional medicine and traditional practices. Always inform your healthcare provider about any complementary or alternative therapies you are considering to ensure safe and coordinated care.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture near me

Kampo Health is a leading Chinese medicine clinic in Toronto, ON. We provide the full spectrum of Chinese medicine therapies to help a wide range of acute and chronic health issues, from pain to digestive conditions. We also provide online/virtual consultation and herbal treatment for patients who can not attend treatment in person. In 2024, we just opened another location at Georgetown, Halton, ON, to accommodate the suburbs in the Great Toronto Area. If you are looking for natural medicine for yourself or your family, Give us a call or email to book an appointment now.

Tel: 1-647-779-1919

Email: info@kampomedicine.com

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