***Bell’s Palsy

A Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Bell’s Palsy

Affecting about 40,000 people in the United States every year, Bell’s Palsy is a neurological disorder that
manifests as a paralysis of the face. This disorder often affects only one side of the face. Bell’s Palsy is thought
to be a result of damage to the facial nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face, which then causes
those muscles to droop. The facial nerve damage that affects the facial muscles can also impact a person’s taste,
saliva, or ability to cry. Bell’s Palsy is most common in young adults, the elderly, diabetics, and pregnant women,
but it can affect anyone.

This condition is often a shock, as it comes on overnight. The majority of patients wake with the facial muscles in
paralysis. Most patients either have no symptoms beforehand, or they miss the warning signs, which are subtle and
can include neck pain, pain behind the ear, or pain in the back of the head. People with Bell’s Palsy can experience
difficulty with multiple facial functions including closing their eyes, eating, smiling, and their speech can also
become slurred. Often, people jump to the conclusion that a stroke has occurred, but thankfully, Bell’s Palsy is not
the result of a stroke, and is also a temporary affliction. While the condition comes on suddenly, it usually passes
or gets better on its own within three weeks.

Massage can also help ease the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy. Gently massaging the afflicted areas of the face, or
practicing daily facial exercises can help the condition. Additionally, a full body massage on areas that are
unaffected by the condition can help. Stress can worsen the condition, and is often thought to be a precipitating
factor that may bring on an episode, so receiving a relaxing, full body massage can help soothe a patient and lead
to a quicker recovery.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the diagnosis for Bell’s Palsy is termed “External Wind-Cold attacking the
channels of the face”. According to TCM principles, one of the main implications of this condition is an underlying
qi (a person’s inherent energy) deficiency. In China, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to assist in
Bell’s Palsy recovery, and the initial treatment goal according to TCM would be to expel Wind and resolve Damp, as
well as to invigorate qi and promote blood circulation to the face. Consistent acupuncture treatments (usually
recommended once or twice per week), can help soothe a patient, expedite the paralysis from dissipating, and enhance
nerve function.

Patients with Bell’s Palsy can have several weeks of recovery time in which they may choose to stay at home and take
some time off from their normally rigorous daily routines. Traditional Chinese medicine and holistic healing has
several options, from herbal remedies to massage and acupuncture, to vitamin supplements, that patients may wish to
investigate during their recovery period.



***Using Facial and Scalp Acupuncture To Treat Neuromuscular Facial Conditions

By Michelle Gellis, LAc, MAc, DiplAc

As a practitioner and instructor of facial rejuvenation acupuncture I have gotten many calls over the past 10 years
from individuals seeking help for various conditions affecting the facial muscles, nerves, and overall function of the

My skills in needling the face, the facial muscles, utilizing facial cups and facial Gua Sha tools along with much
training in scalp acupuncture have provided me with a framework to treat my patients. By incorporating these different
modalities, I have been able to help patients regain lost motor functions in their face and to relieve conditions such
as TMJ and the effects of stroke and MS.

There are many conditions, which affect the appearance and functionality of the facial muscles. Facial and scalp
acupuncture, facial cupping and motor points are uniquely suited to address these conditions. The same points used to
raise a saggy jowl or a furrowed brow can be used to treat a drooping eyelid such as with ptosis or bells palsy.

The same scalp points, which can help with nerve pain or motor issues can help with facial pain from trigeminal
neuralgia or shingles on the face. Facial cupping and facial Gua Sha (when done with special facial cups and facial Gua
Sha tools by a practitioner trained in facial cupping and facial Gua Sha) brings blood and Qi to the muscles of the
face and has the potential to relieve TMJ and invigorate conditions affected by paralysis or weakness such as MS, or

Lastly, intramuscular needling techniques (which are invaluable in acupuncture facial rejuvenation for relaxing taught
muscles which cause deep wrinkles) can be used to relax atrophied facial muscles as may happen with myasthenia gravis
or ptosis.

Once a diagnosis has been made and a pattern has been established for treating the underlying condition, body points
are inserted and then local points can be used either for their function (for example GB20 to disperse wind) or to
stimulate a muscle group (for example ST4).

Scalp points for motor function can be particularly valuable to re-innervate the face after a stroke or Bells Palsy.
Lastly, special intramuscular techniques are employed and motor points are stimulated (if necessary) to relax atrophied
muscles. Once all needles are removed, facial cupping and Gua Sha can be used to further the effectiveness of the

Combining different modalities and techniques increases the effectiveness of the treatment and the rate at which your
patient will see results. Knowing which muscle groups are affected and what the underlying cause for the condition is
of utmost importance when planning a treatment of this type.

I like to see patients at least twice a week until their symptoms abate, and in the case of Bells Palsy, and stroke,
the sooner the patient is seen the greater chance for success.

(from: Acupuncture Today-March, 2014, Vol. 15, Issue 03 )

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