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Bells Palsy: confusion!


Hi, I am treating a gent who has had bell’s Palsy for over 2.5 years. he has a residual slight weakness of the face: eye and mouth drooping. He wants me to use electro-acupuncture on him to clear this, but I was taught that in the sequalae stage, after 3 months, we should be reinforcing the affected side, possibly with moxa, rather than reducing the affected side.
I know we would reduce the affected side initially to clear blockages, but after 3 months the channels are weak, not blocked. So we should reinforce with moxa and not use electro? Is that correct?
Many thanks for your steer


The entire concept of using reducing/reinforcing technique is but one of several theoretical approaches. Personally I’ve never liked using electric stim. One of my teachers at school was a neurologist in China and he did teach that for certain conditions like palsy and stroke electric stim was better and certainly there are enough practitioners out there using electric stim. I’ve had success treating bell’s palsy using neutral needle technique and no moxa or electric stim. So there really is no one correct answer. It is up to you to decide what kind of technique you are most comfortable and confident with.


The first thing that stands out to me is when you say “he wants me to…”. You need to treat with your training and expertise, not having techniques dictated to you by your patients. That will almost never work out. Now being open to their ideas and research they have done - sure, listen and perhaps follow up on your own afterwards, but don’t do things because they are asked for unless you are positive it is the right approach and came to that conclusion on your own.

Now that said there are clearly many different viewpoints within Chinese Medicine - which is why it seems to conflict with itself at times. There is really no right or wrong, but there are faster, more efficient and more reliable results with adaptable treatment protocols. That is, don’t get too tied to certain ideas as they only limit your ability to adapt treatments to each patient.

For what it is worth in our system we don’t use electro or moxa very often (instead using tuina in place of electro and qigong in place of moxa). We also don’t reinforce or reduce, we just put the needles in - in my opinion most of that is speculation at best. If you read studies of what appears to happen when points are stimulated nearly nothing happens locally - the points light up areas in the brain and then over hours to days functions change in the body.

I’ve treated any number of cases of Bell’s Palsy and many chronic cases - some patients having symptoms for over a decade before coming in. What I’ve found is that after the acute phase (so maybe up to 6 months) needling locally accomplishes next to nothing. After that we tend to use a mix of constitutional points, points possibly such as LU 7 as an example and then deep tuina in the neck and then points such as those described on our tam healing for bell’s palsy page. Cupping on the upper back may also be appropriate.


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