Chiropractic for the treatment of Bell’s Palsy can help by decreasing the amount of time healing, and the severity of the symptoms. Bell’s Palsy affects about 40,000 people in the United States each year, and can affect anyone at any age, but the highest incidence remains in patients aged 15-45. Through several techniques of the upper cervical spine, chiropractic treatment can make a difference with Bell’s Palsy.
Bell’s Palsy is an unexplained occurrence of facial muscle paralysis or weakness in the 7th cranial nerve which will usually resolve on its own without complications. The facial nerve controls mouth movements such as smiling, forming words, and frowning, and eye movements such as blinking. Symptoms can vary between patients depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Common Symptoms Include:
- Paralysis on one side of the face
- Weakness on one side of the face
- Dry eye
- Dry mouth
- Excessive tearing that occurs in one eye
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty drinking and/or eating
- Drooping of one eyelid
- Drooping of one corner of the mouth
- Weakened sense of taste
- Muscle twitching in the face
- Pain behind the ear and around the jaw
- Tinnitus in one or both ears
- Sound sensitivity on the affected side
Any one of these symptoms are usually sudden and progress rapidly reaching their full effect within about 2 days, and then tend to resolve in about 2 weeks; at most 3 to 6 months. This leaves the face distorted when the patient experiences a flare up. Although the appearance of the patient is similar to one who has had a stroke, contrary to popular belief, Bell’s Palsy is not related to stroke. The cause at this point in time is unknown, but is hypothesized to be caused by inflammation affecting the immune system, and in relation to other conditions like diabetes. Although most people recover fully from Bell’s Palsy with or without treatment, there is no one particular treatment that works best for it. Most people either take medications such as corticosteroids and antiviral drugs, attend physical therapy, and/or receive acupuncture or chiropractic treatments.
Bell’s Palsy Chiropractic Treatment
Chiropractic treatment for Bell’s Palsy supports and encourages the natural healing process in the body. The adjustment mostly focuses on the central nervous system to restore mobility and movement, relieve pain, and address nerve-related issues in the face. The focus of spinal manipulation for Bell’s Palsy will be on the cervical vertebrae because if these are out of alignment, it will put pressure on the cranial nerve causing the Bell’s Palsy. Chiropractic adjustment will relieve the pressure on the cervical spine, thus relieving symptoms.
Chiropractic Treatment Protocol:
- Look to see if the patient’s ears are unlevel
- Look to see if the patient’s shoulders are unlevel
- X-rays need to be taken of the neck from the front, top, and side, then perform gentle adjustments to C1.
- Perform a post-postural evaluation to see that the ears and shoulders are more level.
- Cold laser therapy may also be a good treatment option for someone with Bell’s Palsy as it helps heal the nerve tissue around the face. This in conjunction with chiropractic adjustments can be helpful to recover from Bell’s Palsy.
Case studies have shown the effectiveness of chiropractic for Bell’s Palsy with the use of low-level laser therapy, combined with chiropractic manipulation, showing significant improvements in facial movements.
2011 Case Study – Chiropractic Care of a 47-year-old Woman with Chronic Bell’s Palsy:
- A 47-year-old woman diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy experiencing right sinus congestion and pressure, sporadic tingling of the right side of the face, and deficient facial tone on the right.
- HVLA chiropractic manipulation was performed on the thoracic and cervical spine, interferential current stimulation, and hydroculation therapy.
- Symptoms subsided following the initial session and continued to decrease over the next 9 weeks of chiropractic care. Over the course of a year of chiropractic visits, the patient improved 90%.
2013 Case Study – Chiropractic Management of Bell’s Palsy with Low Level Laser and Manipulation:
- A 40-year-old man with no previous history had facial paralysis on the left side for 10 days. He was unable to close his left eye as well as having a burning and tearing sensation in it, trouble lifting his left lip, and drooling while brushing his teeth.
- Chiropractic manipulation and low-level laser therapy was performed 2 times in 4 days. The laser was applied at the stylomastoid foramen (between the styloid and mastoid processes of the temporal bone) for 1 minute, and the facial nerve for 30 seconds at each point.
- Symptoms improved 70% to 80% improvement of facial movement just after the first treatment, and full control of facial movements after the second treatment achieving complete resolution of Bell’s Palsy.
Chiropractic treatment can be very effective in decreasing the healing time for patients.
Chiropractic Techniques for Bell’s Palsy
Generally speaking, patients who are looking to be treated for Bell’s Palsy will want a chiropractor with a specialty in the cervical spine. Fortunately, there are techniques that can be done if you plan to specialize in the cervical spine.
Cervical Spine Techniques for Bell’s Palsy:
- Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic Technique – a specialized system of adjusting and analyzing the upper cervical spine with particular attention to the first 2 cervical vertebrae, the axis and atlas, as these are the most free-moving vertebrae in the spinal column commonly misaligned. If you are interested in learning more about this particular technique, you can get certified through the Blair Chiropractic Society.
- Advanced Orthogonal Technique – this technique identifies subtle misalignments of the top in the vertebrae of the neck and perform a percussion-wave adjustment focusing on the Atlas bone. It releases nerve tension in the brainstem which affects the performance of the vagus and facial nerves in a positive way. If you are interested in learning more about this particular technique, you can get certified through the Advanced Orthogonal Institute.
Chiropractic Treatment for Bell’s Palsy
Chiropractic for the treatment of Bell’s Palsy can aid those patients that aren’t able to resolve their symptoms quickly, or for those who have repeat instances of Bell’s Palsy. The fact that Bell’s Palsy can resolve on its own is evidence of just how powerful the natural healing in the body is, and how chiropractic can and does enhance these natural healing abilities.