brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(9):702

Original Article: Common Questions About Bell Palsy

Issue Date: February 1, 2014

TO THE EDITOR: I appreciate the authors' brief review on Bell palsy, but I am curious why they did not mention the benefits of acupuncture for treating this condition.1,2 Before reaching for my prescription pad to prescribe steroids, I refer my patients to one of the many qualified and licensed acupuncturists in my area. These patients often achieve dramatic improvements without the adverse effects that commonly occur with steroid use (e.g., weight gain, worsening of blood glucose control).

IN REPLY: Acupuncture has a growing evidence base, and further research is warranted. Current evidence indicates that early treatment with prednisolone significantly improves chances of complete recovery from Bell palsy1; therefore, steroid treatment should not be delayed to initiate acupuncture or any other alternative therapy. There are no evidence-based recommendations for the initiation of acupuncture for Bell palsy.2 A Cochrane systematic review found no harm from acupuncture, but also could not establish effectiveness secondary to the poor quality and insufficient power of existing studies.3

Most patients with Bell palsy achieve dramatic improvements without any treatment. In one study evaluating 1,011 patients, 85% showed signs of remission within a three-week period.4 The primary purpose of steroid therapy is to prevent long-term sequelae, and there is a higher degree of success if it is initiated as soon as possible.5

Email letter submissions to afplet@aafp.org. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors. Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Letters may be edited to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

Continue Reading


More in AFP

Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See https://www.aafp.org/about/this-site/permissions.html for copyright questions and/or permission requests.