Does Facial Acupuncture Help Bell’s Palsy?

Breeze Academy April 27, 2023
Man undergoing facial acupuncture

Bell’s Palsy, also known as Facial Palsy, is a rare condition that causes temporary weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles on one side of the face (not to be confused with a Stroke). It is the most common cause of facial paralysis and is thought to be caused by inflammation of the facial nerve as a result of a viral infection.

Conventional medical treatment typically includes use of corticosteroids, antiviral medication and eye protection, but recent studies suggest that Acupuncture may be at least as effective as these conventional treatments and may improve recovery. In this article, Breeze Academy takes a look into the research surrounding Acupuncture for Facial Palsy to determine how effective this drug-free treatment is. 

So, does facial Acupuncture help Bell’s Palsy? Research suggests that Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy may be at least as effective, if not more so, than conventional treatments such as steroidal and anti-inflammatory medication. 

Read on to learn more about the science behind facial Acupuncture and how likely it is to be effective against Bell’s Palsy. 

Is Facial Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy Effective?

Research suggests that Acupuncture can help treat Bell’s Palsy by relieving inflammation around the facial nerve. As it is thought that inflammation (as a result of a viral infection) is the cause of Bell’s Palsy, this research is promising. One of the key benefits of Acupuncture across the board is that it helps to reduce inflammation. 

Research Into Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy

Whilst some researchers claim that the research into Acupuncture for Facial Palsy is low quality, a 2019 review of studies found that 11 studies were suitable for review. The findings from these studies indicate that Acupuncture is associated with increased or complete recovery compared with those that only receive medication.

This research concluded that, despite the poor quality of research into Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy overall, it does appear to be a superior treatment to medication alone. However, researchers involved in this review highlighted that more high-quality research is required to confirm these findings. 

Acupuncture Vs Western Medicine

Facial Palsy may resolve itself within nine months with most people completely recovering without complication. That being said, treatment is more effective if started within 72 hours of symptoms developing. 

Commonly, doctors will prescribe a 10-day course of steroids alongside eye drops and ointment to stop the affected eye from drying out. Patients may also receive surgical tape to ensure the affected eye stays closed during sleep. Typically, patients will see improvements within 3 weeks. 

Current research, however, claims that Acupuncture appears to be a superior treatment to medication alone. It is also thought to improve recovery rates when used in conjunction with western medication. In fact, it is a common finding of research that Acupuncture is most effective when used in conjunction with another relevant therapy. 

When to Have Acupuncture for Bell’s Palsy

Like with medication, researchers have found Acupuncture to be most effective against Bell’s Palsy when started within the early stages of the condition, ideally up to 7 days after symptoms develop.

However, it isn’t yet clear how many Acupuncture sessions are needed, or how frequently it should be administered for best results. 

Facial Acupuncture Points for Bell’s Palsy

In a clinical trial, the following facial Acupuncture points were used with a 98% effective rate:

  • GB14 (Yangbai)
  • I18 (Quanliao)
  • ST3 ( Juliao) 
  • EX-HN8 (Shang Yingxiang)
  • LI20 (Yingxiang)
  • MHN18 (Jiachengjiang)
  • ST4 (Dicang)

Needles were inserted superficially and manipulated to enter the muscle layer. Mild reinforcing and attenuating manipulation techniques were used to induce a deqi response.

Final Thoughts

Acupuncture appears to be effective in treating Bell’s Palsy. Research suggests that it may be at least as effective, or more so, than western medication. This may be due to Acupuncture’s known effect on inflammation - a possible cause of Bell’s Palsy.

If you’re a healthcare professional looking to expand your service offerings with Acupuncture, Breeze Academy offers foundation-level Acupuncture courses in all major UK cities. For those that already have base-level understanding and want to expand their knowledge, we also offer intermediate and advanced courses that go into more detail around specific concerns. Find out more online today or get in touch for more information.

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