There are three major types of nerve destruction that cause paralysis. Children may be born with an incomplete nervous system, such as spina bifida, an accident may occur that destroys part of the nervous system, or a disease may be present causing destruction or dysfunction of nervous tissue.
Chinese research workers claim that acupuncture can be used to treat the symptoms of spina bifida, such as incontinence, although no claim has been made that acupuncture can affect the anatomical abnormality.
Traumatic paralysis, due to accidental destruction of the nervous system, can also be treated by a variety of acupuncture techniques. The acupuncture must be continued for a long period, sometimes daily for six months, but the results from some of the Chinese work are encouraging. They claim that some 50-60 per cent of patients are likely to gain significant return of function if treated with acupuncture, but it is wise to remember that a good number of these injuries would allow the spontaneous recovery of significant function.
Facial paralysis (Bell's palsy) is a disease of sudden onset that causes one side of the face to lose muscular power; the cause of this is unknown. Acupuncture and moxibustion can be used to treat this and the Chinese claim a 75 per cent complete recovery rate but, again, this disease allows a significant percentage of spontaneous recovery. The Chinese also claim that a further 20 per cent gain benefit from acupuncture, although not complete recovery. Even allowing for the known level of spontaneous resolution in facial paralysis it does seem that acupuncture has something extra to offer.