Bell’s Palsy is a type of infranuclear peripheral paralysis of the facial nerve. This disease occurs with relative frequently in adults. A number of cases can be cured completely or will leave little damage after proper treatment. On the other hand, in some cases the symptoms can last for months and even for many years even though they have been treated with care. Those are the cases which usually seek acupuncture treatment as a last resort. A study was conducted by the Department of Medical Acupuncture in Indonesia. For the research, 21 cases of Bell’s Palsy were studied, including 12 males and nine females. All had been treated before by western medicine but had no positive results.
The diagnosis was based on neurological examination results.The duration of illness varied from one week to 24 years. Five cases were referred by colleagues, while the remainder came spontaneously. Usually the patients ask acupuncture treatment after other modalities of treatment have failed. Acupuncture is often considered as the last resort for such illnesses.
The method of treatment used was acupuncture with electrical stimulation. Needles were inserted into selected acupuncture points with light manipulation until the patients had a feeling of numbness and heaviness, with either a dull aching or a tingling sensation. These responses are known in Chinese as Te-Chi, or response of the vital energy. Then the needle handle was connected with an electrical stimulation appliance, which is constructed especially for acupuncture.
The duration of stimulations was seven minutes. Needling was done two or three times a week. One course of treatment comprised 15-30 sessions. An interval of one or two weeks was given after one course and if any progress was noted or achieved, the treatment was further continued for the next course.
The results were considered good as there were no subjective complaints with normal facial muscle functions on neurological examination. An improvement is considered when there is diminished subjective complaints, but neurological examination still showes abnormal function of the facial muscle, but in a lesser degree. The treatment is considered a failure if during one course of treatment (12 sessions) no improvement at all is observed. Fourteen cases with excellent results were of the patients whose complaints or impairment were less than two weeks before they sought acupuncture treatment.
Five cases with improvement were of the patients with complaints or impairment between four months and one-and-a-half years. The duration of illness of two cases which were regarded as failure was one of nine years, and the other of 21 years. These two cases showed irreversible facial muscle contractures. For comparison, another study in 1975 had treated 62 cases of Bell’s Palsy (25 males and 37 females) with the results as following— 29 per cent good, 56 per cent improvement and 15 per cent failure.
In cases with good results, acupuncture treatment were given in varying degrees of treatment between one to three courses. While in cases with improvement, the treatment was stopped after five courses.
From the case study described above, it is suggested that acupuncture with electrostimulation should be the first choice for the treatment of Bell’s Palsy. The study was conducted by Dr Adikusuma and Dr Mettydewajani at Dr Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The author is Head of the Department of Acupuncture, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi