I’m experiencing my second attack of Bell’s palsy in five years. Other people with the condition seem to have varying rates of recovery. The only conventional treatment is a short course of steroids, which I’m currently taking. I did get referred to a physiotherapist last time, with limited results. A course of acupuncture was beneficial, but the facial nerves to my eye and mouth grew back incorrectly, so I am worried that this second bout could weaken the area even more. Is there an alternative way to aid recovery?
I know patients who have had repeat attacks of Bell’s palsy, but it is quite rare. The condition is caused by one of the seventh (often written as VIIth; each is identified with Roman numerals) pair of cranial nerves. There are 13 pairs of nerves that come out of the cranium directly from the brain. The VIIth pair control the facial muscles, one for each side of the face. With palsy there is a malfunction in the nerve-to-tissue connection, so the eyebrows, eyelids and mouth are visibly distorted. The eyelid doesn’t close and usually has to be patched or taped so that dusts particles. don’t settle in the eye. The lips tilt to one side, which may cause drooling. Talking and drinking can be difficult because the mouth won’t close properly. As the facial muscles don’t work, there is no expression on the affected side.
The worst aspect is the psychological effect, as people may stare and ask embarrassing questions. Because the recovery period varies, as you mention, patients are always worried about the long-term effects.
Although Bell’s palsy is similar to a stroke, the damage is focused on just one nerve and its centre in the brain. One theory is that it is viral in nature, and I have seen several people who have developed it after a ‘chill’. My hypothesis is that the culprit is the vertebral arteries whose branches feed the Vllth nerves and their centre in the brainstem. The vertebral arteries, which are located in a bony-fibrous canal in the cervical spine, supply blood to the subconscious part of the brain. I remember two patients in particular who came to me shortly after they had suffered attacks and showed remarkable signs of recovery after I used my technique to correct the disalignment in their necks. This improves the blood flow to the brain, and if we accept that improved blood flow can ameliorate the condition, then it is logical to assume that the vertebral arteries, if they are mildly compressed by tight neck muscles, can impair the function of the VIIth nerve.
Having used this technique to rehabilitate stroke and palsy victims for a couple of decades, I have some experience in this field. The technique is now being researched by a leading British hospital to study its effectiveness in acute stroke cases.
Here are my suggestions
* Don’t drink any coffee or alcohol.
* Do drink freshly juiced carrot and; celery: the potassium helps the muscles and nerves.
* Drink two mugs a day of home-made chicken broth, about an hour before your main meals, for two weeks. This provides calcium and other nutrients.
* Take one capsule daily of vitamin B complex and one Bioenergy tablet twice daily, to help boost the healing of nerve.
Massage the effected side
* Use Lifestyle Massage Oil to massage the neck, shoulder and behind the ear on the affected side, once a day. Start gently, then massage more deeply as you grow to tolerate it. Do this for ten minutes.
* Now move on to the face. Massage deeply (with the index finger) the areas in front of the ear lobe and the jaw muscles for three to five minutes, followed by the remaining pressure points shown left (for right-sided palsy; reverse for the other side). They will be sore to touch. Do the following facial exercises. Try to close the on the affected side while lifting your eyebrows (this offers resistance to the muscles that help to open the eyes); pout your lips, then relax; blow out your cheeks.
Practise therapeutic yoga
Helpful postures include the bridge, supine twist cobra, half spinal twist, locust and corpse. These are detailed in my book Therapeutic yoga, co-written with Jiwan Brar. You could also join a local yoga class.