Bell’s Palsy

At Physioflexx, we mainly see people with musculoskeletal (MSK) issues like sore backs and necks, knee and ankle injuries, shoulder pain and sports injuries. But we see also treat different sorts of problems, ones that involve the nervous system. A rare sight for us is Bell’s Palsy.

These can be referred pain that moves from a source point down the arm or leg (like sciatica), called peripheral neuropathies. Sometimes though, we treat the symptoms of more rare neurological conditions, like Bell’s Palsy. Anyone can have a Bell’s Palsy, but it’s more common in adults than children.

Its fancy medical name is idiopathic facial palsy, which actually tells us a lot about it. Idiopathic means that it occurs for reasons unknown. Facial meaning not just on the face, but involving the facial nerve. This is a cranial nerve – it comes directly from the brain and not a branch from the spinal cord – and it supplies the muscles of facial expression, the glands in your mouth and tear ducts, and parts of the tongue.

The significance of all this is that with Bell’s Palsy, we often have a droop to one side of our face, dry mouths and eyes, and can sometimes slur our speech.

Ah, I hear you say. This sounds familiar but not in a good way.

You are bang on. These are also symptoms of stroke.

What is Bell’s Palsy?

One of the main differences is that stroke symptoms of a drooping face and slurred speech happens very quickly (usually within minutes, and definitely less than a few hours). Bell’s Palsy symptoms generally take 48-72 hours to develop.

Figure 1 Image from Pacific Neuroscience Institute

Here are a few more of the symptoms:

  • Drooping eyelid or corner of the mouth
  • Dryness in the mouth and eye
  • Drooling
  • Pain behind the ear or jaw on the affected side, or a headache
  • A loss of taste
  • An overproduction of tears or saliva

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent a Bell’s Palsy, and no way to tell if one is going to occur. The cause may be because of a viral infection to the facial nerve, and this could be anything from mumps to chickenpox to cold sores. The good news is that the symptoms abate within a period of weeks, and usually completely disappear within 9 months.

If you do detect symptoms above, make sure it isn’t a stroke (lift both arms – any changes on the affected side, or if you suspect something more serious call 999 immediately!)

Treatment for Bell’s Palsy includes a 10-day course of steroids, usually prednisolone, eyedrops and eye protection if the eyelid won’t close. Starting the treatment within the first 72 hours of symptoms is key to a quick recovery.

From a physiotherapy point of view, we can often help with facial exercises, reduction of pain in the jaw and easing headaches.

Further Information

If you have any questions about neck, back, shoulder or elbow pain and you would like to book an appointment to see a physiotherapist. Please click here to book. Book Online – Physioflexx Ayrshire

For all enquiries : Contact – Physioflexx Ayrshire on 01560 483200.

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