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My Personal Bell’s Palsy Journey

In early August 2017, while I was blowing my nose, I started experiencing the first symptoms of a diagnosis most people know really little about. My goal with this post is to shed the light and educate on how to recognize and what to do when you suffer from the neurological condition known as Bell’s Palsy.

Bell’s Palsy is the acute paralysis of several muscles of one side of the face that are innervated by the facial nerve, one of the twelve cranial nerves. The origin of this condition are believed to be viral in origin(herpes simplex and zoster, flu, mononucleosis, german measles…) . Some studies show one is at higher risk of contracting Bell’s Palsy if they are diabetic, pregnant, or having recently experiencing an upper respiratory tract infection.
40 years of age is the prime decade to contract the disease.

This infection leads to a swelling of the cranial nerve. The problem is that the cranial nerve emerge from the stylomastoid foramen on your skull, a tiny orifice just below the ear canal. The pressure put on the nerve by this swelling creates inflammation and leads to that facial paralysis resulting in the inability to close the eye, frown, smile, seal your lips, pucker, whistle or perform any fine motor action with the side of the face affected. Other symptoms includes drooling, decrease sensation on one half of the tongue with decreased ability to taste on that side, numbness on your face/cheek, jaw pain and headaches.
The most urgent symptom that needs to be address ASAP is the inability to close the eye, which will create dryness, excessive tearing and potential damage to your cornea which can results in serious eye and eye sight damages.

In my case, i was blowing my nose when I felt my right jaw locked for about 15sec, with sharp pain due to jaw muscles spasm. These was my first symptoms. The pain quickly went away but my right face felt weird for the rest of that day. It’s not until the next morning that I felt something was very wrong when I looked at myself in mirror and was unable to frown( no wrinkles on forehead), unable to fully close my eye, to whistle and drink without spilling water since my lips would not seal.
If I had not known anything about Bell’s palsy, i could have thought I might have a stroke. One of the key signs for a stroke, or CVA, would have been sudden weakness in limbs on one side of the body. Thankfully, this was not the case.
Bell’s
palsy is also common in people who contracts Lyme disease and it should be ruled out.

After recognizing these symptoms and becoming pretty confident it was Bell’s palsy, i scheduled a visit with my primary care for the next day and was able to be evaluated and diagnosed officially. This short turn around between first symptoms and medical attention is key since Bell’s palsy involves a nerve injury, for which you never want to wait or postpone care in order to expect prompt recovery. 72 hours is somewhat of a cutoff for faster recovery vs lingering and possible neural damage.
I was prescribed steroids and an antiviral drug which helped reduced my symptoms by 50% in 24 hours.


I also started gently massaging and stretching my face 3 times daily, focusing on stretching my upper eyelid to make my eye close, which is a priority with facial paralysis in order to keep your eye healthy and prevent complications like corneal ulcers, which can lead to blindness.

I documented my symptoms and recovery in the videos below before giving my thoughts on what made me fully recover in 7-10 days.
The average length of symptoms are 2-4 weeks. In the most severe cases, symptoms can linger for up to 6 months.

So if you ever suffer from Bell’s Palsy, remember to act fast in getting the right medical treatment and see a facial specialist physical therapist that will assist you in regaining movement and  control of your face.

Please follow me on instagram , YouTube, TikTok for much more up to date information and technique you can apply today. @butheauphysio on instagram.

60 thoughts on “My Personal Bell’s Palsy Journey”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with Bell’s Palsy. My partner was diagnosed just last week and I’ve been tryyng to research and learn more about this illness so your videos and story are of great help.
    Awareness is key!

    • Your very welcome. I hope your partner seek help to address it. I believe the earlier you address it, the higher the chance to overcome it quickly.

    • You should try acupuncture ! They can open the proper healing channel without expensive and non effective steroids !!
      I had Bell’s palsy and had 4 treatments and it was completely gone in a month .

  2. Greetings. I would like to detail how I was really able to get full recovery from Bell’s Palsy in 2 1/2 weeks. I’m 47 years old, great shape and very active. I woke up one morning and felt very significant paralysis on the left side of my face. Thinking I had had a stroke, I rushed to the doctor who ruled out a stroke and said it was very likely Bell’s Palsy. He prescribed the anti-viral medicine and said it would take 3 to 4 months or more to get back to normal. This was depressing. Very distressing and depressing since I couldn’t blink my eye or fully close my mouth. Very determined, to get back to normal as soon as possible, I did an all out blitz including daily massage (personal and with a professional masseuse) and very frequent acupuncture. I went to acupuncture every other day and this really seemed to help recovery drastically. I went to a very aggressive acupuncturist, so it was uncomfortable, but one I started seeing results the pain was definitely worth it. I would also place a warm towel on the affected area very frequently. Good luck to anyone who goes through this. I know there are much more serious ailments, but I know from experience, it’s very traumatic to get Bell’s Palsy. It will get better, but I strongly recommend acupuncture, daily massage, warm towels on affected areas and trying to relax.

    • Thank you for describing and sharing your experience and your input on what you did to overcome it. It is very troubling to experience these symptoms the first time. I knew right away what it was as I have treated patients with it and being a clinician, knew that it was not a stroke as I immediately tested my arm and leg strength on the side of the face paralysis/droop. It looks like you were very proactive, which is the best thing to do I believe!

  3. I have had Bell`s palsy for less than two now. Went to the emergency
    room thinking it was a stroke which he was able to tell due to the forehead and placed on steroids. I chewed alot of gum and placed an ice pac on the nerve for five minutes at a time three times a day. First noticed no change second day noticed small changes taking effect. Less than two weeks my eye blinks on it’s own (almost completely closed) my mouth will now open to taken a full bite of food I was lucky if I get my jaw to open enough to get a dime size bit. At this time I can take the full bite due to the conflict with the tongue, jaw and cheek I do not. Those of you that have this no what I mean. To eat I had found out by cutting a sandwich like a pizza works very well. Eating cereal in the mouth I have to seperate the cereal and milk swallow the milk first then chew the cereal. For me what has helped is steroids, gum and ice. Hope this helps! Keep your head up. Keep a positive attitude. To prove it is not the end of the world look outside view the trees and the sky they are still there. And one more thing you are not alone this we have it too. May God bless you and a speedy recovery!

  4. Thank you! I have been struggling for about a week now, and did not know I could buy an electrical stimulator for home use. What brand did you buy? Do you have a link?

    Congratulations on the quick recovery!
    Jocelyn

    • Jocelyn,

      I used a portable e-stim unit because I am a physical therapist, am trained in anatomy and the use of this unit. This training allowed me to target the very I needed. I would not recommend you attempt applying e-stim to your face without training as it can be hazardous and for most types of e-stim, is a contraindication. So for ethical and professional reason, I cannot recommends you attempts this on your own. I can recommend you find a physical therapist that has training in treating Bell’s palsy and has access to a point stimulator NMES current.
      Again, this is not like a tens unit and you need the help of a professional.
      I am hoping you met with a medical professional and have started medical treatment to decrease nerve inflammation.
      Are your symptoms improving?
      Best of luck to you.

  5. Thanks Pierre for such informative article over Bell’s Palsy. Not only that you have created a more detailed video showing us how we can overcome such condition. A big thank you for showing us everything we need to do. This is a great help over me and my brother that is experiencing such condition.

  6. Hey myself asad hasan and i am from India. I Have one Question about antiviral drug, so which type of drug you prefer ? if you dont mind can you give me antiviral drug name.

    • I am not a medical doctor nor a pharmacist and don’t prescribe drugs. I did not take an antiviral when I had Bell’s palsy. This would be a great questions for your medical doctor.

  7. I am experiencing Bell’s Palsy right now. I am really stressed. I was diagnosed last Dec 28. I rushed to the doctor thinking that it was a stroke. Doctor said It’s good because it’s just Bells Palsy. It’s just temporary though we’re not sure when I can recover. I really hope that I can recover ASAP.
    I took prednisone 7 days only and now only vitamin B.

    • Hi Dee, how are you feeling? is your condition improving?
      I would really consult with a physical therapist/ Physio so they can show you specific exercises for your facial muscles to recover faster.
      Good luck to you

  8. Hi! I had Bells Palsy about 2 1/2 years ago. I thought the same thing as everyone else…am I having a stroke??? I went to the ER and they determined that it was Bells Palsy and not a stoke. They even did a spinal tap to see if it would help them figure out what caused it. The only thing that the doctors could come up with was that it was caused by high blood pressure. Unfortunately, my recovery took a long time…about 8 months. Its now been over 2 years I am still not 100%. My right eye waters all the time, I have constant headaches on the right side, right-sided jaw pain, and pain behind my right ear….OH! And I can’t whistle anymore (booo). Regardless, I am happy that I am 95% recovered. Bells Palsy is awful BUT it will get better. It just takes time. So for anyone experiencing it now, just know that its not going to last forever. Just have patience.

    • Ashley, your headache and jaw pain as well as pain being your ear are likely muscular in origin. You are likely left with muscular imbalance in your neck/face/ head that are causing all this following the palsy. Have it assessed by a physical therapist so you can received treatment to that area as well as been shown things to do at home and so you can recover fully.
      good luck 🙂

  9. I can’t tell you how helpful these series of videos have been – I was diagnosed this evening with Bell’s Palsy and my symptoms were near identical to you – a stiff, sore neck on my right side and a terribly “clicky” jaw – then this afternoon washing my face, my right side went completely numb. Initially I worried it was a stroke, was so scared but a trip to A&E meant I was diagnosed early and have already bashed some steroids down!

    But your videos have made me feel so reassured – a really really helpful series to do, thank you so much!

    Here’s hoping I have as speedy a recovery as you did!

    Thanks again,

    Amy

    • Amy, I am so glad the videos helped and you re so very welcome! Comments like that make my day!
      It looks like you have been proactive and taking care of nipping that palsy in the bud. That’s great!
      Good luck to you on this journey!

  10. Hello, thank you so much for sharing your story. My boyfriend has recently been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and is confused of the reason. The Dr says it’s a virus but didn’t mention the cause. Her just got over a flu but also experienced high blood pressure. I think the medicine and some massaging will help out alot. I am wondering if I should go get checked as well.

    • Nicole, the virus thought to be responsible for Bell’s Palsy is not contagious so no need to get check because you are around someone who has Bell’s. This virus is not fully understood but is though to be related to the herpes simplex virus.
      Was your boyfriend started on steroids?
      Good luck to him.

  11. I have a bells palsy ang pregnant in my 3rd trimester. What can you advise having warm compress or cod compress?

    • I would use warm wet compress applied to your face. Then use your hand to stretch your face muscles and stimulate them and practicing frowning, smiling, raising eye brows, blowing you cheeks…

  12. Greetings, I was diagnosed with Bell Palsy on February 14, 2019..The ER prescribed steroids and Ibuprofen…The pain behind my ear and the side of my face wont go away. I read not to do the exercise if your face is dropping? It look like I was getting a smile, but today nothing. My eyelid appears to be dropping this wasnt happening before. This is very depressing, I’m trying to stay positive but… I have an appointments with a therapist next week. Should I use cold or heat therapy? Should I do the face exercise…I’m all over the place 😔..Thank you in advance..

    • . How long have your symptoms being going on? (how long before February 14th?) What was the reasoning for not doing exercises if pain is drooping? This is exactly when you need to do face muscles exercises. you might need some help from a finger to assist the contraction but that is absolutely ok. And I would do a lot of it. The therapist should be able to help you and give you all the info you need. In regards to ice or heat, I would try both separately and one after the other. Stick with what works better.

      • Greetings Pierre,

        Thank you so much for your speedy reply…

        1. 13 days as of today my symptoms started

        2. 5 days before the 14th. I went to to my doctor office on Monday experiencing horrific pain in my ear, she diagnosed me with swimmer’s ear. The next day my left eye wouldn’t stop running, then my left eyelid wouldn’t close on the next day I noticed the right side of my mouth dropping. I as was stated by others, thinking I was having a stroke. I went to the E.R. on Valentine’s day and the doctor diagnosed me with Bell Palsy syndrome.

        3. In regards to the exercise I thought it was working, I thought I saw a lift on the side of my left smile a little.😏 Then I read not to exercise if your face is drooping..???

        I have a therapy appointment next week not therapist (autocorrect) .
        ..Again many thanks for this blog and your response..I was becoming overwhelmed…

    • Hi Adriana, sorry for very late reply. Just seeing this now. Have you recovered from Bell’s palsy?

  13. I was just diagnosed with it yesterday. Very relieving that you recovered from it fairly quick. The doctor gave me some meds to take. But they didnt tell me to do any facial exercises.

    • Hi John,
      I can send you a list of facial muscles exercises to do. But I would try to find a physical therapist that can help you in your area. You can text me or email me ( see my contact page) so I can email that list of exercises if you’d like.

  14. My facial numbness was due to surgery and the nerves was totally removed, now I’m having difficulty with talking normal. What should I do?

  15. I raced to my Doctor and got steroids within an hour of seeing the facial paralysis. It was all over after only 10 days, because I got those drugs quickly and did a lot of facial massaging. But I wish someone had told me how strange steroids are – made me feel very high for 2 weeks and then got very depressed. Be prepared.

  16. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road.

  17. Thank you for sharing, this is very helpfu l.I started experiencing numbness to the left side of my face 11/19 I thought it was my pinched never on my neck. 11/20 was the same ny face felt tingly. Saturday 11/21 my tongue went numb and started having ringing in my left ear. I knew I had to go to the dr. On Monday. I went i did not have any muscle weakness in my face at all, lost sense of taste on left side, and loss of hearing but I had my facial expressions. Dr told me to go to ER because it was a stroke… I started crying and went. I am 31 yrs old. Was evaluated, EKG was fine ER dr. Saw me and said that is not a stroke. You have Bell’s palsy. And in 2 hrs. I could feel the left corner of my mouth become weaker and my eyebrow and lips lost movement. Started 80mg of prednisone and started Acyclovir right after leaving the ER. It is day 6 after numbness started and 2nd day on prednisone and Acyclovir and have lost complete ability to raise the left side of my mout, left eyebrow, have to push hard to close my left eye lid to blink, hearing is still off and am dizzy, harder to eat and drink without slobbering. Why did it take 6 days for this to completely progress. I hope it is a speedy recovery for me.

  18. Hi dear,

    Thank you for your experience sharing.
    My father has the same problem second time in the same year and it came to other side of his face after he spent about 8 months on the first side.

    I have a question for you,

    He is about 65 years old and healthy person and sporty.
    How many times you suggest he use the electrical simulator ?

    • Do not use an electrical stimulator without the guidance of a therapist that is trained in Bell’s palsy. Most people don’t need one. Just the right instructions to perform exercises.

  19. Ty for all this. Funny i suffered my BP from my 2nd dose pfizer covid 19 vaccine as im a heathcare worker. YES THERE are studies out there they just don’t tell you. Tomorrow marks 14 days since the full onset and no signs yet of improvement. So im hopeful ill see some improvement. I’m a 53yr old very fit person for 20yrs. No other underline issues in my health. NO smoke, no drink no nothing but clean living.

    • What studies are you talking about Michael? Who is “THEY”? Can you provide a link? I am interested.

      Have you started facial muscles retraining? That is key in recovering. especially if you have not seen improvement for 2 weeks.

    • Michael I had a similar experience. Took the first shot of Pfizer vaccine on February 23rd and by February 25th was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy on same side that I received the shot.

      How has your progress been?

  20. I was diagnosed at age 11 with a severe case. It happened overnight and started with a severe neck
    Pain. I’m now 55 and still have it. I live in Massachusetts. I was always told I have to live with it. My self esteem, pain in cheek and eye twitching is
    Still going on. Are there any Doctors that are willing
    To work with me.?

  21. Thank you Pierre for reaching out to help. I first noticed droop on left side of mouth after headache, front forehead & back of head & nasty sting pain to gland under left ear. Dr prescribed steroids, would not give antiviral. Told me to wait 3 weeks as no specialist would see me. I’m not improving, was not aware of physical therapist. Please can you help advise me how and where to apply face massage to the right muscles.
    I’m devatasted, not getting better. Skin inflamed & very sensitive, have tried antiseptic ointment, not helping. Please reply Pierre. I really need your help. Thank you for reaching out. Diana.

  22. Hi Diana, thanks for resign out and sorry to read you are struggling with this.
    Being told to wait when you are scared of not recovering is definitely not hat you want to hear.
    Antispetic ointment will not help with Bell’s palsy.
    It looks like you emailed and I will reply further there. Hang on: there are things that could can do and be taught to help.

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  25. I am looking for your thoughts, From what I have been told I have a textbook severe case of Bell’s Palsy. I was able to start meds within hours of onset and PT within 2 days. I am currently 4 months out and my eye is still a bit round and will not shut as firm and my mouth seems to not have a wide of a smile. The BIG issue is the pain behind my ear, I can hear/feel my heartbeat and the heavy feeling on my face. Do you have any insight on manual PT or exercises that would help with the pain? Will it last forever? Please any help, or ideas would be wonderful.

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