Many people suffer from a condition called Bells Palsy. It is a condition in which muscles in only one side of the face become really weak or paralyzed. This may cause one side of the face to droop or become extremely stiff. Bells Palsy is caused by some sort of trauma to the seventh cranial nerve. The seventh cranial nerve is also known as the “facial nerve”; damage to this facial nerve can cause swelling. The facial nerve passes through a bony area within the skull, and thus when the nerve swells, it unfortunately pushes up against the skulls hard surface. The amount of swelling will affect how well the nerve works. Although this condition can occur in anyone, it happens to be more prevalent in people who have diabetes and/or those who that are recovering from a viral infection. Some symptoms of the Bells Palsy include drooling, difficulty closing one eye, difficulty smiling or making other facial expressions, difficulty eating or drinking, and drooping of one side of the face. More than often, symptoms are only temporary and go away after about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, treatment options for Bells Palsy are limited. If the condition does not go away on its own, there are some treatment options to alleviate pain and discomfort. Some treatment options may include using eyes drops or ointment to keep the eye hydrated, an eye patch to wear while one sleeps, anti-viral medications, corticosteroids to reduce swelling in the nerve, and of course, physical therapy and acupuncture to prevent muscle atrophy.
Acupuncture is a common treatment practice used by physiotherapists around the world. The technique stimulates certain points on the body, most often using needles. The needle penetrates the skin, while alleviating pain and/or treating various health conditions. The technique comes from Chinese medicine, which holds the belief that disease and pain are caused by the disruptions in the flow of energy. This energy is referred to the qi in the body. Acupuncture works by using needles to stimulate points (acupuncture points) on or below the skin; this will release the Qi which is causing the disturbance in the flow of energy. The patient is asked to lie down on their back, front or one side depending on where he/she is getting the acupuncture. The acupuncturist will use a single use, sterile, disposable needle and insert into the appropriate acupuncture points on the body. As the acupuncturist does this, the patient may feel a brief sting or a tingling sensation where the needle is inserted. A heat lamp may be used to increase blood flow, and further promote relaxation as the patient receives treatment. Sometimes electricity is also used to further stimulate the needles. The needles will stay inside the patients anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. The number of treatments needed will vary depending on the individual; however the average is about one treatment per week for 8 to 12 weeks.