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Acupuncture Treatment for a Hemifacial Spasm

By Christy Callahan ; Updated August 14, 2017

Hemifacial spasm is a neuromuscular disorder characterized by frequent, involuntary contractions of muscles on one side of your face. The condition can continue until half of your face appears to "droop." Acupuncture may be beneficial for nervous system disorders. Points on the face and body are thought to stimulate proper nervous system function. Talk to your doctor about your condition, and discuss acupuncture as an adjunct to your regular treatment program.

Hemifacial Spasm in Western Medicine

Hemifacial spasm occurs in both men and women, but typically affects middle-aged and elderly women. These spasms may originate from a compressed facial nerve, which interrupts nervous system signaling. Tumors, blood vessels and injuries to the face can affect the cranial nerves that innervate facial muscles. Beginning with intermittent eyelid twitching, hemifacial spasms can progress to involve the muscles on one side of the face, keeping them continuously contracted. One side of your face may appear to "droop," similar to Bell's palsy. Western medical treatments include surgery, botulinum toxin injections and medications to relax muscles. Prognosis is dependent on how you respond to treatments; you may have lasting effects for the rest of your life.

Facial Spasm and Paralysis in Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine operates on the belief that the body is made up of energy, or qi, that travels most potently in lines called meridians that run along the body. The body's qi, as well as blood, can become stagnant or stuck, causing emptiness and excess in certain areas. Facial paralysis or spasm is thought to be mainly due to emptiness of the network vessels. External pathogens, like wind, heat or cold, can prey upon the vacuity, attacking your facial nerves and sinews in the face. Qi and blood are blocked, impeding the muscles' ability to relax and contract. Older patients are more at risk for neuromuscular disorders, and recover more slowly than younger patients. As you age, your qi and blood diminish, leaving you more vulnerable to deficiency or vacuity.

Points Used

Local points, or those in the affected area, are often used as main components in acupuncture's management of facial paralysis and twitching. Additionally, certain points can be joined together by one needle. Two points often joined are gallbladder 14 and yuyao, a point that doesn't lie on a meridian. Yuyao is found in the middle of your eyebrow, with gallbladder 14 residing 1 inch above it. These points help with deviation of the mouth and eye, drooping and twitching eyelids and facial pain. Stomach points 2, 4 and 6 are also recommended for mouth deviation, drooling, numbness in the face and contraction of facial muscles. Additionally, your practitioner may choose stomach point 36 and triple warmer 6 -- located on your leg and arm, respectively -- to help rebuild qi and blood.

Supporting Research

Though not guaranteed to treat or cure facial spasms, acupuncture has been shown effective in clinical studies. The "Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion" journal featured a study in July 2006 that examined the effects of acupuncture plus laser therapy on facial spasm. Out of the 390 patients, 200 received western medication and traditional treatment while 190 received acupuncture and laser therapy. Results showed that those in the latter group saw 93 percent effectiveness with only 6 percent relapse rate. The medication group only experienced 62 percent effectiveness, while almost 34 percent of patients saw recurrence of symptoms.

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