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May 2022

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

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What is Bell’s palsy, and how does it affect you?

Bell’s Palsy is a condition whereby a lesion (damaged/wounded) facial nerve number 7 results in a condition called flaccid paralysis (a weakness or reduced muscle tone) of the muscles in the face that are used for facial expression on the same side of the damaged or wounded nerve. This weakness causes one side of the face to droop and may also affect your sense of taste and also in how you produce saliva and tears.  

The cause of Bell’s Palsy is not entirely understood however some scientists believe that a viral or common cold virus is some form of inflammation that affects the body’s immune system. It is associated with other conditions such as diabetes.  Facial muscles that have been affected may become inflamed or compress the facial nerve leading to Bell’sPalsy. These compressed or swollen muscles can also occur by a blow to the face but also may be of an unknown origin. Exposure to a chill or draft may contribute to Bell’s Palsy. 

Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy usually occur suddenly and typically get worse over the next 48 hours. You may notice pain and/or discomfort on one side of the face or head, however pain may not be present. Bell’s Palsy is a condition that can affect anyone of any age however it occurs more often in pregnant women, and those that have been affected by a cold virus, influenza, diabetes or another respiratory condition. It can sometimes be associated with High Blood Pressure, Injuries, Toxins, MS, Lyme Disease and some sort of viral infection. Bell’s Palsy affects men and women equally but is less common for those aged 15 and under and over 60.  

Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy

  • Loss of feeling in the face typically on one side
  • Facial Sagging or drooping on one side of the face
  • Tearing 
  • Loss or reduced sense of taste especially at the front of the tongue
  • Headache
  • Inability to close the eye on the affected side of the face
  • Limited ability to control facial expressions such as smiling, blinking, closing   of the eyelid or squinting.  
  • Inability to raise the corner of the mouth or to whistle
  • Difficulty with eating
  • Loss of blinking reflex which may result in excess tears or lack of tears
  • Cannot actively flare nostrils

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How is Bell’s Palsy Diagnosed?

A health care provider can usually diagnose Bell’s Palsy by looking at your symptoms. There are also no specific tests used to diagnose Bell’s Palsy.  Your doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions and to determine the extent of nerve involvement or damage. The symptoms usually occur suddenly and typically get worse over the first 48 hours. Bell’s Palsy in many cases usually starts to improve within 2 weeks however it can take from 3 to 6 months and even longer. If there are no visible signs of improvement or if symptoms become worse you should see a health care provider. Many may have difficulties closing the eye so proper eye care is helpful in keeping the eye from becoming dry. Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend eye drops to keep the eyes moist, especially at night.  

How is Bell’s Palsy Treated?

Besides keeping the eyes moist at night, at Dynamic Physiotherapy Mississauga we have had success treating Bell’s Palsy with either Physiotherapy and/or Acupuncture. With physiotherapy we use a device called an Electro-Acuscope which helps with the healing process by up to 50% as well as exercises to stimulate the facial nerve. One can do the exercises for Bell’s Palsy of which there are many different variations online. When you visit Dynamic Physiotherapy in Mississauga after an initial assessment and treatment, we will show you specific exercises that will help each individual.  Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is often used to treat acute and chronic pain as well as conditions and injuries. Acupuncture involves the manual stimulation of specific acupuncture points using thin needles and in some cases we can combine both Physiotherapy and Acupuncture or stagger the treatments to provide faster healing response.  

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment that is typically performed twice a week for several weeks depending on the condition being treated. It is unknown exactly how many treatments will be required as it can vary from condition to condition and for each individual.  

Bell’s Palsy can often clear up on its own within several months however some may develop permanent muscle weakness.  At Dynamic Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Mississauga, we would focus on reducing any inflammation/swelling or compression of the facial nerve as well as focus on Specific Exercises to promote stimulation of the muscles and nerves of the face.  

For more info contact the Regulated Health Professionals at Dynamic Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Mississauga at 905-273-5433 or at www.dynamicphysiotherapy.ca

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