Acupuncture Proves to be Integrative Therapy for Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s palsy is a nerve disorder that causes sudden paralysis of unilateral facial muscles. Studies show that 70 percent of those affected will completely recover, but 15 percent will go on to experience permanent damage. This prolonged paralysis and asymmetry can affect psychological and social behaviors which can undermine patients’ quality of life.

Duke Anesthesiology’s Dr. Jongbae Jay Park is a co-author of a newly published study in the February 2017 issue of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, titled “A close look at an integrative treatment package for Bell’s palsy in Korea.”

As the study notes, Bell’s palsy patients experience significantly higher degrees of distress and report that they feel helpless when doctors don’t acknowledge problems other than facial disfigurement. While clinical guidelines in conventional medicine don’t yet recommend acupuncture treatment for Bell’s palsy due to poor study design and reporting, acupuncture is one of the most sought after treatments for this condition in many Asian countries.

The authors conclude that the lack of awareness, dearth of knowledge in patient needs, and shortage of treatment options available during the recuperation months increase the need and significance of an integrative treatment program for a well-rounded overall recovery. While rigorous research is warranted, they highly suggest that it is worth applying integrative medicine, such as acupuncture, to Bell’s palsy patients.

Dr. Park is the director of acupuncture and Asian medicine for Duke Anesthesiology’s Center for Translational Pain Medicine and a pain specialist at Duke Innovative Pain Therapies, located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Learn more about this first-of-its-kind pain practice in Duke Anesthesiology’s 2016 edition of BluePrint magazine.