Bell's palsy can cause a variety of issues, including pain, paralysis of facial muscles, and involuntary muscle movement. Some patients recover with no treatment, while others need medication or physical therapy to minimize or correct damage. Some patients may also choose to explore alternative therapies. Choosing the best Bell's palsy treatment typically depends on the source of the problem and which symptoms the patient has.
In cases where the underlying cause of the issue is known, doctors often use medication for Bell's palsy treatment. Inflammation and swelling can put pressure on the facial nerves; corticosteroids are typically prescribed to address this. Bell's palsy can also be caused by viral infection, in which case anti-viral drugs are typically used. Drug treatment is often most effective when started within the first few days after the onset of symptoms.
Bell's palsy can be painful due to the compression of the facial nerve. Application of moist heat, like a warm, wet washcloth or a gel pack can help. Over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) may also be effective.
Facial muscle paralysis can cause secondary symptoms in the eyes, mouth, and ears, so special care should be taken to protect them with any Bell's palsy treatment. The eyes are particularly vulnerable, as the ability to blink may be lost; eye drops should be used to keep them moist, and the eyelids may need to be manually forced to blink. Sensitivity to noise can be a problem, so earplugs may be needed. Good dental hygiene is important as food may get caught between the cheek and gums.
For those suffering from muscle paralysis, physical therapy is one of the most important parts of Bell's palsy treatment. Patients should work with their therapist to understand what exercises can be done to help recover as much movement in the face as possible. It is important to allow enough time for rest and healing, however, and to not push the muscles too quickly, as doing so without proper nerve function may lead the muscles to develop involuntary movements. Early in treatment, massage of the muscles may be sufficient for stimulation.
Some patients find alternative treatments useful for relieving symptoms. Acupuncture, yoga, and meditation are all techniques that can be used to control pain and provide relaxation to frozen muscles in the face. Biofeedback training can help patients use their thoughts to get control of their facial muscles.