July 27, 2017
Angelina Jolie revealed in an interview this week that she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis, last year. According to Jolie her Bell’s palsy was successfully cured with acupuncture.
Facial Palsy UK warns that people should not ignore the evidence based treatment for Bell’s palsy. The Scottish Bell’s palsy trial  published in 2007 clearly states that early treatment (within 72 hours) with prednisolone significantly improves the chances of complete recovery.
Some people (60-70%) do make a full recovery from Bell’s palsy without medical intervention but steroids increase the chance of a better outcome. Evidence to support the use of acupuncture is limited, some practitioners use electrical stimulation  through the needles which can cause synkinesis and should be avoided. Synkinesis is the development of linked or unwanted movements, for example, every time you smile one eye closes. This is extremely difficult to treat and there is currently no cure. Treatments include specialist facial therapy from a specially trained physiotherapist or speech therapist or Botox to manage the symptoms.
Catriona Neville (specialist facial palsy rehabilitation therapist at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead) states:
It’s important that all patients with facial palsy seek medical treatment within the first 72 hours as treatment with steroids in this time period is the most important and medically proven intervention for acute facial palsy. There’s some evidence that acupuncture can be helpful in addition to steroids however the evidence for this is limited and often anecdotal. Many people mistakenly assume that treatments help them recover when in fact 60-70% of patients will make a spontaneous recovery anyway. Steroids have been proven to increase the likelihood of spontaneous recovery. For patients who are left with complications after facial palsy such as synkinesis, specialist therapy and Botox have been shown to be successful in improving outcomes.
 Madhok VB, Gagyor I, Daly F, Somasundara D, Sullivan M, Gammie F, Sullivan F. Corticosteroids for Bell’s palsy (idiopathic facial paralysis). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD001942. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001942.pub5
 Sinis, N., Horn, F., Genchev, B., Skouras, E., Merkel, D., Angelova, S.K., Kaidoglou, K., Michael, J., Pavlov, S., Igelmund, P. and Schaller, H.E., 2009. Electrical stimulation of paralyzed vibrissal muscles reduces endplate reinnervation and does not promote motor recovery after facial nerve repair in rats. Annals of Anatomy-Anatomischer Anzeiger, 191(4), pp.356-370.