According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), each year, approximately 40,000 people are affected by Bell’s palsy, which is a form of temporary facial paralysis. However, the condition is not considered to be a form of stroke. It generally affects people between the ages of 16 and 59. Although the condition can happen to anyone, it is more common among those diagnosed with diabetes, influenza, middle ear infection, or Lyme disease.
Although Bell’s palsy is temporary (usually only lasting for about two or three weeks), the symptoms can range from mild loss of control of facial muscles on one side of the face to headaches, jaw pain, drooling, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, or difficulty eating or drinking. Most cases are treated with medication, but there is a surgical procedure for severe cases. However, surgery is quite controversial and may not be effective. Needless to say, many sufferers who come to see Dr. Nathen Horst have already considered or tried other therapeutic techniques, to little or no avail.
What Causes Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy occurs when the cranial nerve (known as cranial nerve VII) that controls the facial muscles, become swollen, compressed, or inflamed. This facial nerve not only controls facial expressions such as smiling or frowning, but also the eyelids, and both the tear and saliva glands. According to NINDS, researchers think that this pressure on the cranial nerve may come about as the result of a viral infection, such as viral meningitis. The nerve will swell up and become inflamed in response to the infection, thus restricting the proper flow of blood and oxygen.
Standard Treatments for Bell’s Palsy
The most common treatment is steroids, such as prednisone. Other medications, such as acyclovir, will help fight the viral infection, and aspirin may help relieve the pain. Facial massage and exercise may help maintain muscle tone and prevent permanent damage. In cases where the eyelid is affected, an eyepatch, along with lubricating drops, will protect the eye and keep it moist until normal blinking function is returned.
Chiropractic treatment for Bell’s palsy focuses on the first seven vertebrae leading out of the base of the skull (called the cervical vertebrae), which are in the neck area. If these vertebrae are out of alignment, they will put pressure on the nerves leading to or from that region of the spine. In the case of Bell’s palsy, this pressure will be on the cranial nerve. By shifting the vertebrae back into alignment, Dr. Horst can relieve this pressure, thus relieving symptoms.
An article published in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine discusses a case of a patient with Bell’s palsy who underwent chiropractic treatment. A 47-year-old woman with Bell’s palsy underwent chiropractic adjustments to her cervical and thoracic (chest) spinal regions. She had three adjustments per week for five weeks. At the end of treatment, she reported being able to sleep more soundly, and the right side of her face significantly improved.
Although Bell’s palsy is a temporary condition, patients who undergo chiropractic care may find that the duration and severity of the symptoms will be significantly shortened.