• Acupuncture, Biofeedback, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Vitamin B 12 Injections
Bell's palsy is the common name for a condition in which paralysis strikes the seventh cranial nerve, which controls much of the face. Only one side of the face is affected. Symptoms usually come on suddenly and painlessly, and are first noticed as a droop in one corner of the mouth and an inability to smile properly. Other symptoms may include drooling, an inability to close the eye on the same side, tearing, impairment of taste, and occasionally pain. While anyone can develop Bell's palsy, it occurs most often in pregnant women and people who have diabetes, hypertension, or a respiratory infection.
Conventional treatment for Bell's palsy currently involves corticosteroid drugs (such as prednisone) and sometimes the anti-viral drug acyclovir. However, according to a review published in 2002, there is no reliable evidence that either treatment provides any benefit. 1,2 A study published subsequent to the review did show a slight benefit with early, high-dose corticosteroid treatment. 3
Useful supportive measures for Bell's palsy include patching the affected eye at night and using artificial tears. Surgery or electrical stimulation of the nerve are used rarely.
Note: Medical evaluation is essential because, in rare cases, Bell's palsy may be caused by an underlying condition that requires specific treatment, such as a tumor.
Proposed Natural Treatments for Bell's Palsy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen at increased pressure. It is used both by conventional and alternative practitioners. A placebo-controlled study found hyperbaric oxygen more effective than prednisone. 4 In this trial, a total of 79 people with Bell's palsy were randomly assigned to receive either hyperbaric oxygen (1 hour twice daily, 5 days a week, for 30 sessions or up to full recovery) or prednisone. Placebo pills were given along with hyperbaric therapy, and fake hyperbaric therapy was given along with prednisone. The results showed a significantly greater speed of recovery as well as a higher percentage of full recovery in the hyperbaric oxygen group compared to the prednisone group.
Many alternative practitioners recommend the use of injected vitamin B 12 for Bell's palsy. However, the only scientific support for this approach comes from one study that was not double-blind. 5 (For information on the importance of a double-blind design, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? )
Last reviewed October 2007 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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