Bell’s palsy is a neurological disorder that can temporarily damage the cranial nerve of the facial muscles and paralyze the facial muscles usually on one side. In some rare cases, both sides of the facial nerve may get affected. Swelling and inflammation affects the symmetry of the face.
It becomes difficult for the patient to generate facial expressions like smiling or closing their eyes. The speech can become slurred and there can be tears in the eyes, also mild numbness and pain can be felt in the affected side. In most cases the symptoms pass away within a few weeks. No specific cause for this condition has yet been established but viral infection is often held responsible for this condition.
Usually steroid medications, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed in conventional treatment to reduce inflammation, which are often very hard on your stomach. There are some alternative treatments like massage, facial exercises, acupuncture and yoga or use of vitamins and herbs that can reduce inflammation and prevent the shrinking of the facial muscles. They help to relieve the patient from the discomforts that are associated with this condition.
Exercises For Bell’s Palsy
According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, physical therapy of the facial muscles can help to stimulate the nerves that are affected by increasing the blood flow in them. The facial exercises are done to stimulate each facial muscle groups.
Exercise For The Eyes
Stand in front of a mirror. To reduce stiffness of the eyelid and relax the eyelid muscle, look down and close your eyelid by placing your index finger on it gently to close the eye. Stretch your eyebrow upward with the opposite hand. Now remove your hands from the eyelids and make efforts to press eyelids together. Shrink your eyes as if you are trying to stare at the sun. Try this exercise 2-3 times.
After standing in front of a mirror, try to raise the eyebrows gently. Take help of your fingers if you want. Try to bring your eyebrows close and frown. Wrinkle up the nose. Take deep breath through the nose and allow your nostrils to flare. Now using your finger, move the corner of your mouth outwards and upward as if you are trying to smile. Now take away your fingers and try to hold the expression for a while.
Pull your lips together as you do to kiss someone. Then try to make your upper lip reach the tip of the nose holding it for few seconds. Repeat this movement 10 times.
Raise Your Eyebrows
Raise your eyebrows to the maximum height you can and hold the expression for few seconds; repeat this movement 10-15 times. All these exercises are recommended by Bell’s palsy association.
First try to smile without showing your teeth for 10 seconds. Then smile for another 10 seconds showing your teeth. Repeat this exercise 4-5 times.
Improving blood circulation massage can cure facial paralysis. Use warm olive oil formassage. Using your fingers, massage your face in circular motion. First massage your cheeks inward to outward. Then move to forehead, chin and your nose and massage them one by one for at least 2-3 minutes. This method will improve blood circulation in your facial muscles and aid in recovery.
Castor oil is very effective in reducing inflammation and healing nerve damage. To increase the strength of nerves and facial muscles and improve its elasticity, apply castor oil by dipping a cotton ball in it after heating the oil.
Consume 3-4 crushed garlic a day to reduce swelling and pain.
The medicinal properties contained in celery can help to cure nerve damage. Leaves and sticks should be consumed either raw or cooked.
Electrical stimulation, which is used by physiotherapist as an additional treatment method, is sometimes recommended by doctors to establish neuromuscular communication and improve the condition of facial paralysis. A small amount of electricity is used to stimulate the facial muscles by affixing electrode on the patient’s body. Electric current is transmitted through electrode to the patient’s affected nerve.
Relaxation techniques like yoga and mediation, which involve breathing techniques, may help Bell’s palsy sufferer to relieve muscle tension and pain.
Heat therapy can also be applied to relieve patient from swelling of the muscles and reduce pain. Heat pad or heated gel packs are usually used, but warm and wet wash cloth can also be used to relieve the patients from pain and discomfort.
Acupuncture, the traditional Chinese therapy, is also used to stimulate nerves and muscles. Acupuncturist inserts thin needles into specific parts of patient’s body to treat the patient. This treatment can help in reducing pain and inflammation. But this treatment method should be done by qualified acupuncturist only after consulting your doctor.
Eye Patch For Eye Protection
The paralysis of the facial muscles often makes it difficult for Bell’s palsy patient to close their eye. Some experience dryness in their eyes. Eye patch is used to protect the eye. Eye drops or ointment is often recommended to relieve patient from discomfort.
Herbal Remedies For Bell’s palsy
Some herbs are very effective in treating the condition of Bell’s palsy. They are:
Licorice root (glycyrrhiza glabra) contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-viral properties that prevents nerve damage and relax the facial muscles. The recommended dose is 10-15 gm. They are available in capsule form.
Ginger And Turmeric
Turmeric and ginger, which are widely used in Indian cuisine, also have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to ease the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. You can either take them in the form of supplement or use while preparing food.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. The antioxidant properties of cod liver oil minimize the symptoms of Bell’s palsy quickly and bring relief. Take one teaspoon cod liver oil daily to improve your condition.
Cayenne peppers contain capsaicin which produces heat that increases the blood flow. The heat also works to reduce inflammation caused by Bell’s palsy. Either eat cayenne pepper or use capsaicin supplement.
Vitamins help nerve growth. Some specific vitamins like vitamin B-6, B-12 and zinc may aid in speedy recovery from Bell’s palsy. Vitamin B12 is often used to treat various neurological conditions and can also alleviate the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Vitamin B6 promotes healthy nerve growth. So it can effectively reduce inflammation and damage of the facial nerve.
Consuming vitamin B6 will ensure speedy recovery of Bell’s palsy patient. Vitamin B1 is also effective in treating Bell’s palsy as it contains thiamine, which is often used to treat inflammation of nerves. All these vitamins should be taken in appropriate dose after consulting your physician.