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May 5, 2010

Bell's Palsy

A reader wrote to me with the following:
Hi there, I came across your blog a couple of days ago searching for some answers for a groin strain for a client of mine. Your blog on 11/12/04 gave me some good advice, thanks. Anyways, I was wondering if you had any info on how to and what to massage when someone has Bell's Palsy. If you have any advice I'd greatly appreciate it.

My response:
Thanks for reading. What you have with Bell's Palsy is damage of the axons of Cranial Nerve VII (facial nerve). This is thought to be caused by a viral infection or immune attack that causes swelling of the cranial nerve. It occurs inside the temporal bone of the skull and, luckily, symptoms remit after about two months. 80% of people with Bell's Palsy have a full recovery.

From a massage standpoint, there isn't much that massage can do to directly impact the condition. However, you can provide client education and support. Facial paralysis may cause drooling and a drooping eyelid that may be embarrassing. Your customer may not want to get out much and may feel isolated as a result. Your reassurances, along with your relaxing massage, may do more to support them through the process than anything else.

Because sensation remains intact for people with Bell's Palsy, there is no reason I can see for it to be unsafe to gently massage the face. My rationale is that the skin is the largest organ of the central nervous system and sensory input to the nerve may serve to help reestablish communication for motor function.

Check out this site for a Bell's Palsy massage protocol (please note: rarely do the facial muscles atrophy from disuse unless it is a long-term case). Included are some facial exercises which should be avoided until voluntary movement starts to return.

Hope this helps your client. Again, thanks for reading.
Linda O. Gutowski, SPT

Posted by linda at May 5, 2010 3:39 PM

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