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Intense Acupuncture May Improve Bell’s Palsy Symptoms

Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of acute facial paralysis resulting from a dysfunction of the facial nerve. This causes an inability to control facial muscles on one side of the face. No specific cause is identified, and the condition is often self-limiting, with many people showing signs of improvement as early as 10 days after its onset, even without treatment. In others, corticosteroid therapy is necessary to improve outcome. Complications may include inability to close the eyelid, leading to eye infection, abnormal tearing, chronic facial spasm, and total facial paralysis.

A prospective, randomized trial involving more than 300 patients with unilateral Bell’s palsy was done within 7 days after the onset of symptoms. The patients were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture without manipulation or acupuncture with strong manual manipulation of needles.

Strong needle manipulation consisted of lifting, thrusting, and twirling the needles after insertion which activated de qi, a compound sensation center. De qi involves the sensations of tingling, soreness, fullness, cool, warmth, aching, heaviness, and radiating sensations at and around acupoints. It has an important role in the attainment of optimal therapeutic effects from acupuncture. Treatments in both groups consisted of five sessions per week for 4 weeks, for a total of 20 sessions.

The researchers led by Wei Wang, MD, PhD, of the Chinese Ministry of Education, found that intense acupuncture with manipulation had a greater therapeutic effect compared with treatment without manipulation. Active stimulation of the de qi center led to complete facial muscle recovery at 6 months in about 90% of patients as compared to only 70 % of patients treated with acupuncture without manipulation. They also report that improvements in function and quality of life in patients were greater in the intense acupuncture group.


Bankhead, C. Acupuncture Level Affects Bell’s Palsy Response. MedPage Today.

Posted in: Acupuncture, Diseases, News Briefs

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