COVID-19 Vaccine Trials’ Bell’s Palsy: Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Dec25th 2020

This month, NORC at the University of Chicago surveyed people about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 26% do not plan to vaccinate, and 27% are unsure – 77% of them are concerned about the vaccine’s side effects. One of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trial side effects is Bell’s palsy or facial palsy, a nerve condition. As a physical therapist and movement recovery expert, I would say that Bells’s palsy is not life-threatening, and there are ways to resolve it.

Bell’s Palsy is not life-threatening because it is not a serious ailment, affects only one nerve, and has a low incidence rate in America. First, it does not result from a central nervous system injury or a severe ailment like stroke (cardiovascular accident) with serious complications. Second, even though the real cause of Bell’s palsy is a debate, most healthcare professionals believe that it could be due to inflammation, viral infection, and entrapment of only the facial nerve (cranial nerve VII). Third, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), every year, Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 people in the United States – only 0.01% of Americans and cases post COVID-19 trials is less than those in the general population at .0091%. – .099%. The number of those who contracted Bell’s palsy post-COVID is less than the NIH numbers.

Bell’s palsy could be treated conservatively. Although it is not a serious illness, this leads to one side facial weakness, paralysis, and asymmetry. As a result, smiling, blowing, frowning, raising eyebrows, and fully closing one eye will be challenging. Laser therapydry needling, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), and facial exercises with a physical therapist could help resolve this. 

  1. Laser Therapy – photobiomodulation helps injury and inflammation move through the healing stages by stimulating the mitochondria in the cell.
  2. Dry Needling – Filiform needles could decrease inflammatory factors, improves blood flow which could rejuvenate the facial nerve.
  3. NMES – Neuromuscular electric stimulation will help stimulate and assist muscle movement secondary to weakness.
  4. Facial Exercises – Retraining and strenghtening of facial muscles with a physical therapist with verbal, visual, and tactile feedback could help restore facial expression.

Therefore, the facial paralysis on Bell’s palsy should not pose a serious health concern. It only affects facial nerves, and according to the research, it is not more than .01% of the general population. Moreover, different modalities and exercises with an experienced physical therapist could resolve this condition. Contracting Bell’s palsy is a curable condition that can be resolved.

Do you have more questions about this condition? Contact us at Skillz Physical Therapy today to learn more.

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