What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy, also known as facial palsy, is a paralysis of the facial nerve causing muscles on one side of the face to become weak or paralyzed. This condition affects only one side of the face at a time, causing the affected side to droop or become stiff. Bell’s palsy can happen at any age usually for people between the ages of 16 to 60 with Bell’s palsy in adults being more common.

Bell’s Palsy Symptoms

Now that we went over what is Bell’s palsy, it will be easier to understand its symptoms. Bell’s palsy symptoms are usually sudden, even after you felt fine before.

There are those with Bell’s palsy who feel pain behind their ear 1 to 2 days before they notice any weakness while others say sounds seem to be much louder than normal days before they notice any other symptoms.

The Bell’s palsy symptoms below could happen before the start of Bell’s palsy and will probably happen on only one side of your face:

  • Unable to blink or close your eyelid
  • Drooling
  • Eyes water more or less than usual
  • Decreased sense of taste
  • Twitching facial muscles
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Pain or numbness behind the ear

Individuals who develop Bell’s palsy, especially Bell’s palsy in adults, can have a long recovery period while some, in rare cases, may develop permanent symptoms.

Bell’s Palsy Causes

Bell’s palsy happens when the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed; when this happens the facial muscles weaken or become paralyzed. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is not clear, but Bell’s palsy causes are believed to be from one or more of these problems:

  • Problems in the Body’s Immune System
    When the body has a difficulty in fighting disease, chances of Bell’s palsy are increased.
  • Reduced Blood Flow to the Seventh Cranial Nerve
    The seventh cranial nerve emerges from the pons of the brainstem and controls the muscles of facial expressions and taste sensations from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue.
  • Viral Infection
    Infections from certain viruses can cause the facial nerves to swell.

Viruses and bacteria that have been linked to developing Bell’s palsy include the following:

  • HIV
    HIV damages the immune system by infecting cells. This causes the body to lose its ability to fighting many infections.
  • Herpes Simplex
    A contagious virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes.
  • Lyme Disease
    A transmitted disease to humans by ticks after they feed off infected deer or mice. 
  • Sarcoidosis
    An inflammatory disease in which granulomas, or clumps of inflammatory cells, form in various organs causing organ inflammation. This can be triggered by your body’s immune system responding to viruses, bacteria or chemicals.
  • Herpes Zoster Virus
    A virus that causes shingles and chickenpox.
  • Epstein-Barr Virus
    A member of the herpes virus family and one of the most common human viruses causing mononucleosis (also known as mono) and other illnesses.

Possible Bell’s Palsy Complications

Even if the recovery from Bell’s palsy is not as long, it can sometimes leave lingering complications behind. The largest portion of the facial nerve contains efferent fibers for the stimulation of facial muscles and form facial expression.

If this part of the nerve is not regenerated completely, it can result in permanent paralysis of all or several muscles on the side of the face.

Synkinesis is a result from the miswiring of nerves after they have experienced trauma. Synkinesis is a possible Bell’s palsy complication that makes involuntary movements happen alongside your voluntary movements.

An example of this would be if you were to smile and your eye muscles will react with an involuntary contraction, causing them to squint while you smile.

Along with this, incomplete sensory regeneration may also result from Bell’s palsy. Dysesthesia is a condition in which deterioration or loss of taste occurs after partial regeneration of the chorda tympani.

Chorda tympani is an important branch of the facial nerve that carries taste information from the anterior part of the tongue. Dysesthesia can change the sensation of things and causes inappropriate or incorrect signaling.

Other cranial nerves, such as glossopharyngeal or trigeminal, are also involved with the condition (these are the ninth cranial nerve and the fifth cranial nerve, respectively) and are responsible for sensations in the face and motor functions.

Can Upper Cervical Help with Bell’s Palsy?

Upper cervical chiropractors focus on the upper neck region of the spine. Adjustments are made to ensure the brain stem is not being disrupted and nerves are not compressed. Since Bell’s palsy shows a strong connection with nerves and facial muscle functions, upper cervical can be a great option for a Bell’s palsy treatment.

There are three branches controlling facial expression with the main nerve exiting the brain stem at the pons medulla junction. The brain stem consists of the midbrain, pons and medulla oblongata and the top two bones that house the brain stem (called the Atlas and the Axis) are the main focus in upper cervical. 

When we look back at the three problems doctors believe to be the cause of Bell’s palsy (problems in the immune system, reduced blood flow to the seventh cranial nerve and viral infection), the more upper cervical seems to be a strong choice for those suffering from Bell’s palsy. The brain stem is the bridge between your brain and body.

When the brain stem is disrupted your immune system becomes weaker and keeps your system from doing its best at fighting off infections. A disrupted brain stem can also reduce blood flow to various parts of your body while the nerves are compressed and increase your blood pressure. All of these are very important factors that can change how your body fights Bell’s palsy or even help prevent it altogether.

It is also possible to have hypertension and Bell’s palsy. Hypertension has shown an association with high blood pressure and compressed nerves can cause your blood pressure to rise. There has been knowledge of a link between hypertension and Bell’s palsy, specifically in adults, for many years.

If upper cervical helps correct hypertension by releasing the pressure off of your nerves and stopping the compression, it could in turn prevent or help your body fight Bell’s palsy.

Upper cervical adjustments are nothing like general chiropractic adjustments. Since upper cervical is focused around the care of the brain stem and the nerves, the adjustments for upper cervical are very precise and extremely gentle.

The best way to combat Bell’s palsy is to correct the cause of the body dysfunction. Believed causes of Bell’s palsy keep pointing at the cranial nerves and immune system functions, both of which can be corrected with upper cervical treatment.