Bell’s palsy is a disorder characterized by paralysis or weakening of the muscles in one of the two sides of the face. It is believed to be caused by damage or failure of the nerve that regulates the muscles of the face. This damage is described as swelling, inflammation or compression of the nerve. A segment of the medical authorities could not find the underlying cause for such nerve damage. Another group, on the other hand, attributes the cause of the nerve damage to viral infections, specifically from infection from the herpes simplex, a virus from the common cold or other viral meningitis.
Bell’s palsy afflicts approximately 40,000 Americans every year. It can affect people of all ages and gender. Data shows that the incidence of this disorder is highest among those aged 15 to 35 years and it seldom occurs among the very young – below 15 years old – and seniors older than 60 years. People with diabetes, flu, cold or ailments of the upper respiratory systems and pregnant women have higher incidence of Bell’s palsy.
Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
Symptoms of Bell’s palsy are varied because of the many functions that the facial muscle performs and the complexity of its structures. They can affect the face, eyes, ears, mouth, saliva glands and the whole head practically. Some of these main symptoms are:
- Paralysis or weakness on one side of the face, causing it to droop
- Eye problems, which could be very dry eye or development of too much tears
- Impaired sense or loss of taste
- Numbness in the side of the face that is affected
- Pain in or around the ear
- Hypersensitivity to sound
Most of these symptoms manifest suddenly and almost without any signs. When they begin, it will take 48 hours to peak. Many cases of Bell’s palsy involve only partial paralysis of the face. In such cases, the rate of recover is very high. In fact, many will not require medical intervention and the symptoms just subside on their own in a period of a few weeks to two months. In extreme cases, however, the symptoms may be severe and permanent total paralysis may happen.
Treatment Options for Bell’s Palsy
Treatment with steroids such as prednisone, a corticosteroid medication, will increase the chance of the afflicted person to regain facial movement, especially when the medicine is taken within the first three days of the start of the symptoms. Some doctors prescribe antiviral medicine to go with the corticosteroid, although, its efficacy is weak.
For some people who would not require any treatment, facial exercise is beneficial to restore facial muscle movement. Massaging the cheeks, forehead and lips with cream or oil may also help.
The eye must be taken care of. One of the major symptoms of Bell’s palsy are either dry eyes or teary eyes. Use eye drops to keep it moist throughout the day. Apply ointment at night.
Decompression surgery in treating Bell’s palsy may relieve the pressure on the nerve, but this option is controversial and seldom recommended.
Other forms of therapies such as facial massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are considered in the treatment of Bell’s palsy. They may provide improvements in the relief of pain associated with the disorder and in the restoration of facial nerve functions.
Chiropractic Care and Bell’s Palsy
The alleviation of symptoms, particularly facial paralysis has been reported in cases involving the application of chiropractic care in patients with Bell’s palsy. Chiropractic adjustments in the cervical spine also resulted in the amelioration of dysfunctions and symptoms to the temporomandibular joint, the hinge that connects the jaw to the skull’s temporal bones, located in front of the ear.
Patients with Bell’s palsy can benefit from the holistic approach of chiropractic care. The chiropractic adjustments will not just focus on the primary region being complained about, i.e., the face or temporomandibular joint, but also other potential subluxations. From the beginning, the goal of the chiropractic care has been the elimination of vertebral subluxations to prevent diseases and maintain the health and wellbeing of the individual.