As I said in an early post, at the beginning I knew nothing at all about Bell’s Palsy and it was hard at the start to find useful information. I gained a lot from reading a blog about someone’s experience so that is really why I decide to blog about what it had been like for me.
What I did learn, online mainly, is that it can strike at any age and that around 0.02% of the population worldwide contract Bell’s Palsy every year. Strangely very little seems to be known about what causes it. It is thought though that it might be caused by a virus, be post viral, a result of lyme disease, stress, hypertension, heart attacks, a million and one other things, or caused by nothing at all. It is said to be best described as an event, a trauma to the nerve and recovery depends on how bad the initial trauma is.
This trauma takes place as a result of inflammation in the CN7 nerve (seventh cranial nerve) or its nerve sheath. This nerve runs behind the ear, connects to and controls the facial muscles. When this nerve is inflamed, or compressed by the sheath it can no longer control the facial muscles, hence facial paralysis on the affected side.
The inflammation is why high dose steroids are prescribed and the connection to a virus or post virus infection is why they also give high dose antivirals. One thing I also learnt was that the sooner these are taken the more chance there is of some recovery and that within 72hrs is the optimum time. I started taking both within 24hrs.
I know how lucky I have been with this and how unusual it is to have had nearly complete recovery within a few weeks. Everything I read said that any recovery can begin to take place from two weeks to three to six months after the initial paralysis but can continue for nine months or even years. I read posts online from people who had had complete recovery, partial recovery and no recovery at all. There seems to be no pattern to the recovery nor any one thing that made a difference.
So what may have helped me?
- That I was lucky enough to have a Dr who responded quickly, got me to hospital quickly and that I began taking medication early.
- That I had access to so many amazing distance Reiki and Shamanic healers. I knew I had this support and was being taken care of so could just relax.
- That I knew what to take in terms of the Australian Bush Flower Essences Waratah and Crowea to help my body to release the trauma and shock so it could begin to heal.
- That I knew how to work with nerve damage and a singing bowl and had someone who could help me as I couldn’t reach to do it myself.
- That I did just stop. I gave myself permission to rest, to do nothing, initially for a month, in the knowledge that I could extend this complete rest if needed.
- That I was somehow able to stay positive, not to worry or stress about what was happening.
- That I treated myself to bluetooth headphones so it was easier to relax listening to audiobooks without all the wires. Doing something nice for me felt good.
- That I treated myself to something to look forward to by way of some dumbbells and new resistance bands. While I knew I couldn’t exercise in any way, not even a short walk I also told myself there would be a time when I could and whenever this was these were there for me.
- Having good friends nearby who, at the beginning, both dropped off cakes, scones, chocolate, soup, vouchers for a take away for my husband and myself, along with bunches of flowers and who contacted me regularly to see how I was doing and if we needed anything.
- Having a brilliant husband who took over everything, so all I had to do was rest up.
- Walking bare foot in the garden, grounding myself in my body also felt as if it was both doing me good and was important all the time I was unwell.
- And finally recognising that I was unwell, that this was me being sick and that it wasn’t something I could work through or shake off was definitely a huge factor in my healing.
I can’t say to anyone who goes through this do this or do that, it works. All I can say is what I feel helped me. At the first visit to my Dr I asked him about facial massage and exercises. His answer was that he really didn’t know. If my paralysis had continued I would have looked into these and also into seeing my cranio osteopath but for me neither were necessary. I read online about someone who found reflexology very helpful which of course could be another alternative. Another thing that was recommended to me was a TENS machine for pain relief but having looked into it ‘just in case’ it appears a more beneficial machine could be a TENS/EMS machine as the EMS function helps tone muscle groups and provides massage.
There were two websites that I did find useful early on when trying to understand a little of what was happening to me. These are The Bell’s Palsy website and Southampton Universities site both carry comprehensive information and also useful links to information.
There are no photos accompanying any of my posts about Bell’s Palsy mainly because I was never inclined to take any. There was no reason for this, no thought behind it, although having come out the other side I realise I am glad that I do not have any. I remember quite clearly how my jaw felt that first night as well as how it looked and do not need to be reminded. Some sites recommend taking nine photos each day to assess the situation, and to see any improvements and for some this might be useful but I was simply never drawn to do so. Hence there are no photos.
One thing I was completely unprepared for was that there would be a point many weeks after I was back to normal where it would all catch up with me and that there would be a period where I felt stressed and overwhelmed, both mentally and physically. Presumably despite everything I had done to support myself, this was the shock of everything that had happened catching up with me. The other thing I hadn’t anticipated was how long it would take to get my energy back, how long I would feel physically tired for. It was over three months after the initial event that I began to feel someway back to ‘normal’ energy wise. Better energy levels and being able to get back into exercising and walking of course really helped dissipate any remaining stress, as did a birthday weekend away walking, relaxing and being totally spoilt. 🙂