Bell’s Palsy

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Bell’s Palsy is a condition where the facial muscles on one side of the face become paralysed due to a disturbance of the facial nerve. The facial nerve runs along a very complex course from your brain, exiting out of a small opening in your skull near the base of your ear. From there, it divides to form the five main nerve branches that innervate the different areas of your face. The facial nerve enables the movement of facial expression such as smiling, closing your eyes, pouting your mouth, wrinkling your nose, raising your eyebrows, and frowning. The exact course of the facial nerve can be very different from person to person. 

Bell’s Palsy was named after a Scottish surgeon, Sir Charles Bell, who was a surgeon, neurologist, and anatomist. The exact cause of this facial palsy is largely unknown but there seems to be a link between this condition and the Herpes virus. The Herpes virus is the virus that causes cold sores. The virus may be existent but inactive within your nerves. However, it can be reactivated suddenly to cause things like cold sores or nerve inflammation. Whether it is this virus that causes it or something else, Bell’s palsy is when the facial nerve becomes inflamed. The inflammation makes the nerve swell, causing compression of the nerve as it exits the small area at the base of your ear. 

Bell’s palsy is usually temporary and can resolve within a few weeks. Your first sign of Bell’s palsy will be loss of control and weakness of the facial muscles on one side of your face. It can also start as a tingling feeling or numbness on one side of your face, and progress to muscle weakness. You may experience sagging of your eyebrow and cheek, drooping on one side of your mouth, difficulty closing your eye, a turned down eyelid, and difficulty speaking. When these muscles are paralysed, you will have difficulty eating and drinking. You may also notice that your taste is affected. This is because the facial nerve also transmits taste sensation from your tongue. Your eye will be extremely vulnerable. Since the facial nerve also supplies the tear glands of your eye, your eye can become very dry. This is aggravated by the inability to close your eye properly. 

Not everyone will have complete nerve fallout. Sometimes only one area of the face will be affected. The treatment for Bell’s Palsy must be specific to each person but corticosteroid medication is the first treatment that should be started. Corticosteroid medication provides the best outcome if it is started early, preferably within 48-72 hours of onset of symptoms. Therefore, as soon as you notice any symptoms of facial numbness, weakness or paralysis, contact your medical doctor immediately. 

Physiotherapy treatment for Bell’s Palsy will aim to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as to maximise nerve regeneration and recovery. We will also provide you with fundamental advice on how to care for your eye. Further treatment options we can offer include ultrasound and ice therapy to reduce inflammation, electrical nerve stimulation to maintain the strength in your facial muscles, soft tissue release techniques, and postural therapy to help reduce tension and aid relaxation. We will also assist you with exercises to recover your facial nerve and muscle function. Exercises will be done during your therapy sessions, and we will also develop a home exercise program for you. 

The sooner you start with your corticosteroid medication and physiotherapy program, the better and faster your recovery will be. Don’t delay, contact Just Physio today. We are here to help you through it.

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