What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy (BP) is a type of facial palsy. The inner ear becomes inflamed resulting in pressure on the facial nerve. This in-turn creates the paralysis of the face on the affected side. It is usually an acute condition affection only one nerve.

It has been reported to affect 13,000-25000 per year alone on the UK. However these figures are from reported and known diagnosed cases.

Research has found that the most common age group is 15-45, where there is an increased risk to the presentation of this condition. However I have just treated a 12 year old boy for this condition, post a very painful ear infection! It is also common in women during their 3rd trimester, and during the winter.

The exact cause for BP is not usually conclusively known. Why the nerve becomes compressed is not understood. Viruses including herpes, influenza and respiratory conditions are often linked.

When presented with a patient with BP they must understand that they are not well, and rest plus a healthy diet is very important for recovery. School age children may be advised to take time away from school.

Symptoms of the condition include;

  • Loss of co ordination of one or both sides of the face
  • Pain in the inner ear
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Sensitivity to loud noises
  • Unable to close the eye/s completely
  • Difficulty eating/drooling
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Control of the nostril due to flaccidity

If someone is suspected to have BP referral from the GP or a trip to A and E is very important to receive diagnosis and medication. BP if diagnosed is treated with steroids and sometimes antiviral medication. From here a consultant may refer to physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy for BP includes an understanding of the nature of the individual’s paralysis as it can be very different from patient to patient. Facial exercises, facial massage and advice will be given. In turn there may be other side effects from BP such as poor balance and spatial awareness which can be treated. This is very important for children returning to school.

hysiotherapy will guide and aid the patient through their recovery and communicate with the consultant on progression. If this does not have an effect referral for further investigations may occur.

Some areas that physiotherapy deal with that BP causes are;

  • Contracture of specific facial muscles
  • Dry or watery eyes that cannot fully close
  • Synkinesis (loss of coordination of areas of the face)
  • And this may result in some psychological affects, so caring support for the patient is needed.
  • Other issues that can also be affected is balance; specifically vestibular balance, and posture. These can be assessed and treated successfully with physiotherapy.

    At Stagg Physiotherapy we have experience with Bell’s Palsy and its associated problems. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice or an appointment.

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