Bell's palsy, a neurological condition that causes sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the face, can be an alarming experience for those affected. In recent years, alternative therapies have gained attention for their potential to complement Western medical treatments. Acupuncture is one such therapy that has emerged as a promising option for Bell's palsy.
Understanding Bell's Palsy and its Challenges
Bell's palsy is characterized by the sudden onset of facial paralysis, often accompanied by difficulty in making facial expressions, speech, eating, and even closing the eyelids. Its cause is believed to be linked to inflammation of the facial nerve, which controls the muscles of the face. This inflammation can be a result of viral infections, or other factors that affect nerve function. Western medical approaches typically involve antiviral medications, corticosteroids, physiotherapy or facial massage to aid recovery. Beyond these recommendations, patients are sometimes offered surgical treatment options.
Recently, however, more individuals with Bell's palsy have been seeking alternative treatments to enhance their healing process and regain facial function more swiftly. Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body, is gaining recognition as a potential avenue for addressing the challenges posed by Bell's palsy.
Acupuncture's Potential Benefits for Bell's Palsy
Acupuncture is rooted in the concept of balancing the body's energy flow, known as qi (pronounced "chee"). By inserting needles into specific acupuncture points, practitioners aim to restore the balance of of this vital energy, promoting overall health and wellness.
From a Western perspective, acupuncture offers several potential benefits:
Improved Blood Circulation: Acupuncture has been shown to enhance blood circulation, which can aid in reducing inflammation and promoting healing. By increasing blood flow to the affected area, acupuncture may contribute to the restoration of damaged nerve tissues.
Muscle Relaxation: The insertion of acupuncture needles can stimulate nerve endings and trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. This can lead to muscle relaxation, potentially helping to alleviate the tension and tightness often experienced in facial muscles affected by Bell's palsy.
Nerve Regeneration: Some studies suggest that acupuncture may play a role in nerve regeneration and repair. By encouraging the body's natural healing processes, acupuncture could support the regrowth of damaged facial nerves.
Stress Reduction: Dealing with Bell's palsy can be emotionally challenging, and stress may exacerbate symptoms. Acupuncture is known for its stress-reducing effects, which can contribute to an improved overall sense of well-being and potentially aid in the recovery process.
Facial Muscle Re-education: Acupuncture sessions can involve gentle stimulation of specific facial muscles, aiding in muscle re-education. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing difficulty with facial movements after Bell's palsy.
Scientific Support and Practical Considerations
While research on acupuncture's effectiveness in treating Bell's palsy is ongoing, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that early intervention with acupuncture improves the outcome of patients with Bell's palsy. Studies have demonstrated positive outcomes in terms of improved facial muscle function, pain reduction, and overall recovery when acupuncture is used as an adjunct to conventional therapies. It's important to note that while acupuncture (or electro-acupuncture) can be beneficial in improving recovery time, it's often best to take an integrative approach, working in collaboration with both Eastern and Western healthcare providers.
Additional Support for Bell's Palsy
In addition to acupuncture, Eastern medicine offers herbal medicine formulas as an adjunctive therapy to help nourish the underlying deficiencies commonly present in the body when a person experiences nerve-related issues. Here in our Houston clinic, we commonly treat Bell's palsy with both electro-acupuncture, herbal medicine, and vitamin and supplement recommendations. In addition to its potential to enhance blood circulation and aid nerve regeneration, acupuncture can promote muscle relaxation and reduce stress. As more research is conducted, acupuncture continues to hold promise as an effective complementary therapy for individuals dealing with Bell's palsy.
Houston may have earned the 12th spot on the 2023 list of allergy capitals in the United States, but for seasonal allergy sufferers who have tried it all, promising modern research backs an unexpected, ancient solution for your sniffles and sneezes.
Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing and promote wellness. While acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat everything from back pain to Bell’s palsy, did you know it can also help to ease your seasonal allergy symptoms?
Allergic rhinitis is a common issue affecting millions of people around the world. It occurs when the immune system overreacts to harmless substances, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. This can trigger symptoms, like sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose or an itchy throat.
One 2015 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, which examined 13 studies with 2,365 total participants, assessed the clinical efficacy of acupuncture for the management of allergic rhinitis, finding it to be a safe and valid option for allergy sufferers .
“Pollen and mold are two of the most common allergens that affect our patients here in Houston,” says Henry Nguyen, owner of Nguyen Wellness + Recovery. “My patients often notice the severity of their seasonal allergies are much less than in previous years, when they come in for regular acupuncture sessions.”
Nguyen also notes that many of his patients report being able to cut back on their allergy medication usage after beginning acupuncture treatments.
“I’ve had patients go from taking daily antihistamines to only having to take medication once or twice a week, which is huge for them,” says Nguyen.
A 2018 clinical trial out of Germany supports this outcome often seen in many acupuncture clinics. The trial analyzed three groups of patients receiving treatment for their allergy symptoms: patients receiving acupuncture, patients receiving sham (fake) acupuncture, and a control group receiving only antihistamines. Patients receiving acupuncture were instructed to take antihistamines as needed. It was found that patients receiving acupuncture used half as much medication as the control group .
How Does Acupuncture Work?
From an Eastern perspective, allergy symptoms are a simple sign that the body’s immune system is out of balance and requires support. When specific acupuncture points on the body are stimulated, a biochemical reaction in the body occurs, which can help to stimulate the immune system and also reduce inflammation in the body, by regulating the body’s flow of energy, known as qi.
Modern Western research suggests that acupuncture works by supporting the down-regulation of serum IgE, IL-1 β, and TNF-α. These substances are all pro-inflammatory mediators, meaning they produce inflammation in the body and can sometimes make symptoms and diseases worse. IgE is an antibody produced by the immune system, but is also involved in hypersensitivity related to asthma, sinusitis, and allergic rhinitis. IL-1 β is a pro-inflammatory cell-signaling protein (also known as a cytokine) with fever-producing properties. TNF-α is another cytokine involved in systemic inflammation and acute reactions .
While acupuncture can help to manage allergy symptoms, one of the best ways it can be used is preventatively, to help modulate the immune system before symptoms even occur. There is even an ancient herbal formula that many acupuncturists commonly prescribe to patients leading up to cold and allergy season, that helps to strengthen and support the body to prevent seasonal illnesses altogether.
What to Expect During a Treatment
We always take a patient-centered approach in our Houston acupuncture clinic, targeting specific acupuncture points based on individual needs for seasonal allergy symptom relief. For example, we may use a point between the eyebrows called Yintang if a patient is experiencing sinus pressure. Congestion can quickly be treated with particular points alongside the nose, like Ying Xiang or Bitong. Inflammation can be addressed using points at each elbow.
During your appointment, you can expect a relaxing session that will often yield quick relief. However, with acupuncture, consistency is key when seeking prolonged relief. The frequency of treatments are dependent on a patient’s personal needs and the severity of their symptoms. While many experience relief with just a session or two, others may require regular sessions over the span of four to six weeks, to help re-balance the body’s immune system response and address potential gut health and digestive issues, which can also play a large role when it comes to allergies.
If you are considering acupuncture for your seasonal allergies, it is important to seek out a qualified, licensed acupuncturist. Similar practices, like dry needling, are not the same as acupuncture, as they lack the holistic approach required for helping to balance the body as a whole. A licensed acupuncturist will be able to evaluate your individual symptoms and recommend a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs.
Nguyen Wellness + Recovery in Houston offers many natural and holistic solutions to help support your body and address seasonal allergy issues, like acupuncture, express acupuncture, herbal medicine and infrared sauna. Contact us for more information, or book online!
1. Feng S, Han M, Fan Y, et al. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2015;29(1):57-62. doi:10.2500/ajra.2015.29.4116
2. Adam D, Grabenhenrich L, Ortiz M, Binting S, Reinhold T, Brinkhaus B. Impact of acupuncture on antihistamine use in patients suffering seasonal allergic rhinitis: secondary analysis of results from a randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2018 Jun;36(3):139-145. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011382. Epub 2018 Feb 10. PMID: 29440045; PMCID: PMC6029641.
3. Zheng, X. L., Tian, Y. P., Luo, H. Y., Zhao, Y. D., Liu, X. Y., Jiang, Y., Ma, C. X., Wang, M. J., & Liu, M. (2018). Zhen ci yan jiu = Acupuncture research, 43(1), 35–38. https://doi.org/10.13702/j.1000-0607.170064
As any well-versed healthcare professional will tell you... our bodies are all different, and therefore, our health and wellness practices should never follow a cookie-cutter approach. This holds true for best infrared sauna practices, as well.
Infrared saunas are quickly becoming a wellness staple these days, with many in the health and wellness community touting the myriad benefits of infrared sauna use. But despite its modern-day popularity, saunas - like acupuncture and herbal medicine - are ancient. It's believed that they originated in Finland as far back as 7000 B.C., and have continued to be utilized for their healing properties ever since.
Many enjoy saunas for the vigorous sweating and increased heart rate that occurs - much like the effects of moderate exercise. The main benefit of infrared saunas are that, unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas use infrared lamps to warm your body directly, and operate at lower temperatures - usually between 110˚F and 140˚F. This makes the sauna experience much more comfortable, while being just as effective.
Numerous studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of long-lasting health issues, and have found proof that saunas may benefit chronic issues, such as:
high blood pressure
dementia and Alzheimer's disease
type 2 diabetes
What the Heck is Dampness? Can Saunas Help? (Yes)
From an Eastern, traditional Chinese medicine standpoint, saunas are very useful for helping to clear imbalances of "dampness," a word you've likely heard us mention from time to time, if you are a patient of ours. Our bodies all contain varying "patterns" of imbalance, which are influenced by our lifestyles, the foods we eat, climate, our emotions, etc. These patterns are the root cause of the symptoms that ultimately manifest in our bodies and minds, as a result. The basis of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine is to help correct those patterns by bringing the body back into balance, or homeostasis.
Here in Houston, where we are plentiful in both humidity and delicious, queso-rich Tex-Mex, dampness is a common imbalance we see. Both diet and climate play a huge part in our patients' levels of dampness, which can manifest as symptoms like fluid retention, weight gain, skin rashes, joint pain, feeling heavy & sluggish, brain fog, headaches and more.
We often recommend herbal medicine, diet modifications, and a series of acupuncture treatments, to help give your body the boost it needs to correct the issues. However, with the addition of our infrared sauna, we're excited to be able to offer you another tool for healing!
The Thing that Most Spas & Clinics Don't Tell You
It's concerning to us that many spas and clinics offering infrared saunas will tell you that it's safe for everyone to use a sauna. Some even say daily use is safe. This is just not true, and not everyone should use a sauna. Also, how you replenish your body post-sauna is an imperative step that is often overlooked.
It all comes back to the wisdom of East Asian medicine, and knowing where our patterns of imbalance lie (click to learn more about the imbalance highlighted):
For people with dampness/phlegm conditions, it is typically safe to use a sauna 2-4 times per week, wiping off sweat regularly during your session, and possibly even incorporating dry brushing during the session to increase lymphatic and blood flow.
For people with kidney yin deficiency, it is best to avoid the sauna altogether, or simply stick to one short session per week, ensuring sufficient replenishment of minerals, as detailed below.
For people with blood deficiency, it depends. For certain symptoms arising from a blood deficiency, the increased circulation from sauna use can be helpful. However, other sets of symptoms - like dryness - can be exacerbated by heating the body. If you're unsure where you fall, we can give you a quick, free consult prior to your infrared sauna session.
Up the Healing Power of Your Sauna Experience
Besides ensuring you are adequately hydrated before stepping into an infrared sauna, there are a couple other things you can and/or should be doing during and after your sauna session.
1. Dry brushing can be a helpful tool for increasing the flow of your lymphatic and circulatory systems, which play a huge part in helping your body to both eliminate wastes and bring fresh, oxygen-rich blood to your tissues during an infrared sauna session. We like this vegan dry brush set. One helpful tip to keep in mind: If you find that there are certain areas where you aren't sweating as much - perhaps your legs or stomach - these are the spots where dry brushing can be especially beneficial. Click here to learn how to do dry brushing.
2. Replenishing minerals & electrolytes is a must after a sweat session. Whether it's spending time in a sauna, sunbathing, or running marathons for fun, the people who sweat regularly, but fail to replenish these important nutrients end up with many dry symptoms and underlying dehydration due to these deficiencies. Electrolytes, like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are essential for helping our bodies to stay hydrated by assisting our kidneys in maintaining proper fluid balance. But skip the sports drinks, because they contain way too much sugar (which only adds to the dampness). Instead, opt for coconut water, which is high in potassium (our favorite brand, with the highest levels of potassium, is Harmless Harvest), and consider taking Trace Minerals. There are drops which you can add to your water or coconut water to up your minerals while sweating in the sauna.
3. Avoid showering until your are fully cooled down. Many people are quick to jump in the shower or sit in front of an A/C just after using the sauna, but it's important to let your body temperature cool down sufficiently before doing either of these things. Eastern wisdom states that when your pores are still very open (like just after a sweat session), your body is more vulnerable, and if you expose yourself to an extreme element (like the "dampness" of a shower, or the "cold" of a blast of the A/C), it is more likely to make it's way inside, creating a new imbalance, or exacerbating a current imbalance. (This explains the whole idea of 'catching a cold.')
If you are ready to experience an infrared sauna session, Nguyen Wellness + Recovery is now offering this tool, in addition to acupuncture, cupping, herbal medicine, and LED light therapy. Sessions are just $40, or you can add a sauna session to your acupuncture treatment for just $30! Book here.
If you are unsure if an infrared sauna treatment is right for you, please contact us for a quick consultation.