by Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
Bell’s palsy is one of numerous disorders causing weakness and/or paralysis of the facial muscles, and is estimated to be responsible for at least 80% of cases. It is diagnosed when all other more serious conditions (e.g., stroke) have been ruled out. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, but most scientists believe the inflammation of the facial nerve (7th cranial nerve) is caused by a viral infection.
Bell’s palsy is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who was the first to describe the condition.
When Bell’s palsy occurs, “the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, causing an interruption in the messages the brain sends to the facial muscles” (NIH). This results in facial weakness or paralysis, almost always affecting only one side of the face.
Functions of the nerve include: closing and blinking the eyes; tear production; frowning; raising eyebrows; smiling; salivating; and flaring of the nostrils. The facial nerve also carries sensations to the middle ear and the anterior 2/3 of the tongue.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy typically come on rapidly. Often a person awakens in the morning with drooping on one side of the face, having gone to bed with no issues the night before. Due to the many functions of the facial nerve, in addition to drooping on one side of the face, signs and symptoms may include:
▪ Inability to raise eyebrow, to wrinkle forehead, or to smile on affected side

▪ Inability to close the eye on affected side
▪ Inability to produce tears in affected eye or continuous tearing
▪ Loss in ability to taste
▪ Pain in and/or behind the ear
With no treatment, most people will begin [...]