Acupuncture On Facial Palsy

Bell’s Palsy Study

The Alberta College of Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine is conducting our very own study on Bell's Palsy. Patients may check the information below. Interested participants should contact us at 587-333-2368 for screening.

Introduction

Bell’s palsy refers to a weakness of paralysis of muscle motor function on one side of the face. It is a relatively rare condition that may occur in people of all ages, although it is less common in the very young. There are many conditions that can cause facial palsy such as brain tumors, stroke, myasthenia gravis, Lyme disease, etc., but Bell's palsy in particular is defined as a one-sided facial paralysis of unknown cause.

The onset of Bell’s palsy is usually acute (within 24-72 hours), with symptoms reaching maximum severity at the 4-7 day range. Bell’s palsy most commonly manifests itself in the following symptoms (see peripheral facial palsy diagram in Figure 1): one sided loss of facial muscle function, disappearance of the forehead crease, inability to fully close the eye, Bell’s phenomenon (when attempting to close the eyes, the eyeball rolls upwards and the white of the sclera is exposed), decrease in deepness or disappearance of the nasolabial fold, drooping of the corner of the lip, and air leakage from the lips of the affected side when the cheeks are puffed.

Bell’s Palsy Study
Figure 1. Differential diagnosis of central and peripheral facial palsy.
Courtesy of Schiefer, Wilhelm, Hart (Eds.). Clinical Neuro-Ophthalmology – A Practical Guide.

Bell’s palsy patients may recover spontaneously and achieve near-normal facial function. However, in cases where the symptoms do not resolve, treatment is necessary and the success of the treatment depends on a variety of factors including severity of facial paralysis, age, immunological impairments, and much more.

Bell’s palsy may also be accompanied by numbness or pain around the ear, hypersensitivity to sounds, and diminished sense of taste.

Assessment of Bell’s palsy

The Facial Nerve Grading Scale created by House and Brackmann, endorsed by The Facial Nerve Disorders Committee, is used to assess the condition and severity of the facial paralysis.  

Treatments

Treatments for peripheral facial palsy are numerous. The main goals of treatment are to speed recovery, make recovery more complete, and to prevent or reduce sequelae. In some cases, treatment is not needed and the facial palsy will resolve on its own. In cases that do not resolve spontaneously, the most common categories of treatment in Western Medicine include acute measures, mime and physiotherapy, drug therapy, surgery, and botulinum toxin injections. Many studies have shown that Western Medicine interventions along with TCM interventions together can lead to a more favorable outcome, and that TCM treatments may be effective in reducing facial palsy sequelae even after acute Western Medicine measures have been stopped. TCM treatments may include acupuncture, electroacupuncture, ear seeds, herbal formulas, etc.

Research Objectives

  1. Advance the understanding of Bell’s palsy development and treatment.
  2. Identify genetic, pathophysiological, environmental, cultural, lifestyle factors and sex and gender differences contributing to the risk Bell’s palsy and their role in the development and pathogenesis of co-morbid diseases, and disability.
  3. Improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Bell’s palsy disorders and evaluate the resulting impact on human health
  4. Enhance the translation and dissemination of Bell’s palsy research findings and concepts to improve health care and increase community awareness to enhance health.
  5. Strengthen the research in to TCM therapies for Bell’s palsy and inform the public to the benefits regarding such treatments
  6. Enable facial palsy research training to inform science in crosscutting domains, accelerate the pace of discovery, and the translation of enhanced therapies from bench to bedside.

Inclusion criteria

This study focuses on the Bell’s palsy sub-type of facial palsy. This is to narrow down the field of study and better compare treatment outcomes.

  • Bell’s palsy within the last year (no known cause)
  • No previous medical conditions that may have led to the facial palsy (eg. stroke, head trauma, tumor, iatrogenic causes, cancer, toxin poisoning, etc.)
  • Age range: 20-55
  • Available for treatment at least 2-3 times/week
  • Available for follow-up for up to 1 year after treatment commences
  • If acute, patient must also have been diagnosed and be under the care and treatment of a Western Medical Doctor during the period of study.