Bell’s Palsy is a condition that causes sudden paralysis to the peripheral nerves that control our facial muscles, and usually affects one side of the face. Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy can be terrifying due to their resemblance to a stroke, but the good news is that the condition is usually only temporary. With a little help from a physical therapist, your symptoms can be managed and possibly even eradicated within a few weeks! That being said, if you have sudden symptoms that resemble Bell’s Palsy (listed below), it’s important to get medical help right away to rule out the possibility of a stroke or other medical emergency.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bell’s Palsy affects around 40,000 people in the United States each year. The majority of afflicted individuals eventually recover their facial mobility with a little bit of help. If you come see us for help with Bell’s Palsy, our physical therapists will help you increase your muscle strength and regain facial coordination from this temporary facial paralysis. We’ll also help educate you on how to handle facial paralysis, perform your daily activities as you’re recovering, and assist you with any changes that need to be made to your eating and drinking routines. Bell’s Palsy patients have found being in physical therapy treatments on a consistent basis greatly improves their recovery and keeps them from backsliding.
A person suffering from Bell’s Palsy may experience any of the following symptoms:
• Sudden weakness
• Inability to close the eye
• Drooping of the face
• Teariness or dryness in the eye
• Pain in the ear or eye
• Difficulty moving the lips
• Sensitivity to sound, causing difficulty with speaking
• Loss of the sense of taste
While the cause of Bell’s Palsy is unknown, it usually occurs because of inflammation in the facial nerve (called Cranial Nerve 7). Bell’s Palsy can be associated with the following conditions:
• High blood pressure
• Trauma to the face
• Lyme Disease
• Guillane-Barre Syndrome
• Myasthenia Gravis
• Multiple Sclerosis
While 70-94% of patients recover within 6 months after the initial paralysis, up to 30% of patients do not make a full recovery of symptoms. When you come in for physical therapy, we’ll discuss your medical history, which will allow your therapist to get a baseline when treatment starts. Depending on your symptoms (including muscle spasms and pain), your therapist may use dry needling, soft-tissue massage, and myofascial release to help you progress. Our ultimate goal is to improve your facial muscle strength, coordination, and function.