Q: Do you have any suggestions for alternative healing methods for Bells palsy and/or trigeminal neuralgia? My symptoms have been going on for several months now.
A: First, let me say that I can truly appreciate the frustration I suspect you must be feeling. These conditions are hard to distinguish at times and coping with either disorder is extremely difficult.
Bells palsy is a paralysis of the facial muscles and is thought to be from inflammation of a nerve known as the facial nerve. This local loss of motor function usually occurs after a viral infection. Someone with Bells palsy will generally notice the sudden development of a drooping to one side of the face. The condition typically begins to improve within a few weeks and tends to resolve in two to three months. But for about 20% of people, the symptoms of Bells palsy last longer and may even be permanent.
Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux, refers to a disorder of the trigeminal nerve that supplies the face, teeth, mouth and nasal cavity with sensation and enables the muscles of the mouth to move. People with trigeminal neuralgia complain of intense facial pain that comes and goes in sharp, excruciating waves; the pain may be triggered by just a slight touch. Plus, brushing ones teeth and chewing on the affected side often become big concerns to someone with this disorder.
Interestingly, there have been many case reports (published mainly in European and Chinese journals) about the successful use of acupuncture for both Bells palsy and trigeminal neuralgia either in conjunction with standard medical treatments or in lieu of the usual medical approach. For people afraid of needles, hypnosis can be used in conjunction with acupuncture to dissuade such concerns. There have been many different types of acupuncture applied for these two conditions. So, it is best to consult a licensed, certified acupuncturist to determine the best approach for you individually and to speak with your doctor about the appropriateness for you specifically.
In addition, there have been a few case reports of chiropractic treatment for Bells palsy, although there does not seem to be a consensus yet about the best treatment approach within this modality. In some European countries, particularly France, physical therapy, with its use of massage, facial exercises, and other modes of muscle relaxation, is part of the standard treatment for Bells palsy. In Belgium, they also often recommend biofeedback and general relaxation techniques for this condition.
For trigeminal neuralgia, some suggest using Capsicum annum (cayenne pepper) applied topically to reduce the pain. It should not be used, though, for more than two days in a row; then, you will have to wait another 14 days before trying to apply the substance again. Cayenne comes in both an ointment and a cream containing 0.02-0.05% capsaicinoids. It should not be ingested; and, it is important to wash your hands very carefully after applying either the cream or the ointment, paying particular attention to avoiding contact with your eyes.