Acupuncture Scotland Blog

News and points of interest from Acupuncture Scotland

Bell's Palsy

Each year in the UK, around 1 in 5,000 people develop Bell's palsy, which is characterised by unilateral facial weakness of rapid onset (Rowlands 2002,Holland 2004). The condition can develop at any age, but seems to be most common in those aged between 15 and 60 years (Peitersen 1982).

In about 71% of patients, it resolves spontaneously without treatment, but 13% are left with slight facial weakness and 16% with moderate to severe weakness that results in major facial dysfunction and disfigurement (Peitersen 1982, Peitersen 2002, Ikeda 2005).  Bell's palsy is due to inflammation of the facial nerve in the internal auditory canal, but the cause of the inflammation is unknown (Adour 1972, Gacek 2002). The condition results in an isolated unilateral lower motor neurone palsy, with impairment of all facial movements on the affected side, including blinking. Conventional medical treatment includes eye protection, drugs (i.e. corticosteroids, antivirals), surgery and physiotherapy.

References

Rowlands S et al. The epidemiology and treatment of Bell's palsy in the UK. Eur J Neurol2002; 9: 63-7.

Holland NJ, Weiner GM. Recent developments in Bell's palsy. BMJ 2004; 329: 553-7.

Peitersen E. The natural history of Bell's palsy. Am J Otol 1982; 4: 107-11.

Peitersen E. Bell's palsy: the spontaneous course of 2,500 peripheral facial nerve palsies of different etiologies. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl 2002; 549: 4-30.

Ikeda M et al. Clinical factors that influence the prognosis of facial nerve paralysis and the magnitudes of influence. Laryngoscope 2005; 115: 855-60.

Adour KK et al. Prednisone treatment for idiopathic facial paralysis (Bell's palsy). N Eng J Med 1972; 287: 1268-72.

How acupuncture can help you

Clinical trials suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as corticosteroids and may improve recovery in patients with Bell's palsy, either used alone or in combination with drug treatment (Tong 2009; Li 2004). Note though that most of the trials to date have been of poor quality which allows only tentative conclusions to be reached (Chen 2010). (See Table overleaf)

  Acupuncture may help in the treatment of Bell's palsy by: 

  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007, Zijstra 2003);
  • enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing the diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles (Komori 2009);
  • nerve and muscular stimulation (Cheng 2009).
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Back Pain

Back Pain can affect anyone at any age and most people will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It is the UK's leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work-related sickness absence.

The condition affects more than 1.1 million people in the UK, with 95% of patients suffering from problems affecting the lower back. Back pain currently costs the NHS and community care services more than £1 billion each year*. Most lower back pain is caused not by serious damage or disease, but by sprains, muscle strains, minor injuries, or a pinched or irritated nerve. It can also occur during pregnancy, or because of stress, viral infection or a kidney infection.

How acupuncture can help

Research has shown that acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment and at least as good as (if not better than) standard medical care for back pain (Witt 2006; Haake 2007; Cherkin 2009; Sherman 2009a). It appears to be particularly useful as an adjunct to conventional care, for patients with more severe symptoms and for those wishing to avoid analgesic drugs (Sherman 2009a, 2009b; Lewis 2010). It may help back pain in pregnancy (Ee 2008) and  work-related back pain, with fewer work-days lost (Weidenhammer 2007; Sawazaki 2008). Acupuncture has in some meta-analyses been found superior to sham acupuncture (Hopton 2010) while in others the advantage was not statistically significant (Yuan 2008; Ammendolia 2008). The sham interventions are not inactive placebos, but effectively different versions of acupuncture, so their value in evaluating treatment efficacy is highly questionable (Sherman 2009a). (See Table overleaf).

Acupuncture can help back pain by: 

  • providing pain relief - by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
  • reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007;Zijlstra 2003).
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility - by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
  • reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
  • providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time (Radcliffe 2006;Witt 2006).
  • improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines on best practice now recommend that GPs offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain*

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Study Trip to China

Julia is hoping to go to China in the autumn to work and learn in a busy hospital, more information to follow

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Client Testimonials

I personally will always attribute Julia's treatment to be the predominant factor in my extended period of remission from Crohn's disease. Julia is both a trusted friend and therapist and I would highly recommend her to anyone seeking an alternative therapy.

Haley Creasey

My aches and pains in ankles, knees, hips and lower back disappear and my energy levels are given a very good boost too! It is 45 minutes or so of relaxation in a busy schedule. She keeps up to date with modern acupuncture techniques and has recently returned from a trip to China to experience these new techniques first hand. I cannot recommend Julia highly enough

Christopher Spencer

I consider myself very fortunate to have found Julia's Acupuncture Practice 2 years ago, when I decided to try acupuncture for back problems. After a few treatments the problems were solved. Since I have every confidence in Julia's ability, each treatment is a very relaxing and worthwhile experience.

Jean Osborne

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