Facial numbness and paralysis have two primary causes. The less severe is called “Bell’s palsy.” It results from damage to the seventh cranial nerve, also named the facial nerve. The damage results from the herpes zoster virus, which also causes shingles. Some of the symptoms of Bell’s palsy include disfiguration, or drooping, of one side of the face and a numb sensation of the face. Sometimes an eyelid will no longer close. At the onset, people often feel anxiety, initially thinking they’ve just experienced a stroke. People at risk include persons infected with a virus, such as the virus that causes Lyme disease, diabetics and pregnant women. Some patients experience an infection of the mouth, gum, nose or ear prior to loss of nerve function. The more severe cause of facial numbness results from damage to the central nervous system, in the form of a stroke or intracranial tumor.
People with Bell’s palsy usually have a weak immune system, hence the frequently accompanying infection. The weakened immune system could result from poor diet, insufficient rest, exposure to drugs or toxins or stress. An inflammatory response and swelling then obstructs the nerves and blood vessels surrounding the facial nerve, paralyzing the facial muscles. In acupuncture, numbness and tingling indicate Qi, or blood circulation deficiency.
Several acupuncture points near the cranial nerve, as well as, others on various parts of the body, restore Qi and blood circulation and will usually return full facial function quickly. Although many cases of Bell’s palsy patients recover without treatment, acupuncture more quickly restores function and also prevents Bell’s palsy from recurring. Acupuncture also supports immune function, preventing other low-immune function maladies.
In a case where facial nerve function has been compromised by damage to the central nervous system, acupuncture can also help to restore function by restoring energy and circulation to the affected areas.