In the very beginning of your Bell’s palsy, besides steroids, such as Prednisone, your doctor may prescribe you a B12 supplement. Vitamin B12, together with B1 and B6, is important for the well-being of our nervous system. Their deficiency can lead to a number of problems. B12, specifically, is responsible for the maintenance of myelin sheath – the insulation that covers our facial nerve and ensures its conductivity.
Let’s take a look at each recovery option of Bell’s palsy and whether B12 or other supplements can be useful there.
Vitamin B12 and quick Bell’s palsy recovery (2-4 weeks)
During any kind of peripheral facial palsy (including Bell’s palsy), the myelin sheath is damaged first. This makes the facial nerve unable to conduct the signals sent from the brain to the muscles. This causes paralysis of the facial muscles.
If the damage was superficial, then only the myelin sheath was damaged. So, our body regenerates the damaged myelin sheath and the nerve regains its ability to conduct the signals. This process usually happens rather quickly. Within 2 to 4 weeks, the myelin restores, and you regain movements and the recovery is most often full. In this case, vitamin B12 supplements can ensure you have enough of it available to help your body recover from the damage.
Vitamin B12 and long Bell’s palsy recovery (3-4 months)
If the damaging factor was present for a longer time, it had damaged not only the myelin sheath but also the fibres themselves (they are called axons). In this case, your body needs to regenerate both the affected branches of the nerve and its insulation (myelin). Only then the signals can start reaching the facial muscles successfully once again.
This takes time. The regeneration of the facial nerve, in the best conditions, can occur at the rate of 1 mm per day maximum. Usually, our body needs to recover approximately 90-100 mm of the damaged facial nerve fibres. At 1 mm per day, that may require up to 3 months before you will see the first movements. Whether you take any supplements, medications or any other claimed “miracles”, you cannot make it regenerate faster than intended by the laws of nature. This is why recovery cannot occur overnight.
Clearly, if you have any deficiencies in Vitamin B12 or other vitamins such as B1 or B6, your regeneration rate will be slower. Your body uses all of its available resources to regenerate the facial nerve. The fewer resources are available, the longer it will take.
Taking supplements will not cause any miraculous recovery. If you have a deficiency, which can be checked with a simple blood or hair analysis in a lab, supplements can help you replenish your body with needed vitamins faster. However, when taking supplements, you have to make sure that they can be absorbed well. That requires a healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet, which in itself makes more resources available for your body.
Vitamin B12 and late recovery period after Bell’s palsy (9 months and more)
Now let’s talk about what happens after the initial 3-4 months have passed. In rare cases, it can take more than 4 months. At this stage, you will start seeing the first movements. This means that your Bell’s palsy has finished.
Your facial nerve will continue to recover, but the rate of recovery will start to slow down around 5-6 months in. At around 9 months and after, you will reach a certain plateau in the recovery. The improvements will become so incremental that you will barely notice them.
Still, by that time, the quality of connection usually reaches a sufficient level for the conduction of the signals. So the level of recovery is not a major problem anymore.
B12 and other medications cannot help with effects of long Bell’s palsy recovery
Unfortunately, there aren’t any medications that can help with these issues. Synkinesis, contractures, pains, crocodile tears, etc, are not there because your facial nerve is not fully recovered. They are there because the recovery took a very long time, they are complications. You need to work on resolving these issues, instead of focusing your effort on incremental improvements in the recovery level of your facial nerve.
Vitamins B12, B1 or B6 or other medications do NOT help with these complications and residuals. They may only contribute to the recovery of your facial nerve in the first weeks or months of the recovery. To reduce all these complications, you need well-guided hard work and special techniques that have to be applied daily, not medications.
To summarize, Vitamins B12, B1 and B6 can be helpful in the beginning stages of your Bell’s palsy recovery. They can provide needed resources for your body to recover the damage in the myelin sheath and the facial nerve. If you already have sufficient vitamins in your system (determined via a blood or hair lab test), the supplements will not help much. If you are deficient, taking these supplements can be important.
Nonetheless, in the late recovery period, you develop complications and residuals (synkinesis, contractures, etc.). This is not Bell’s palsy anymore. Your nerve has already recovered to the most extent and the signals can pass from the brain to the muscles. So, there is no point in taking these supplements as they do not have any significant effect on these complications and residuals. You need to work on them using special techniques. Either with your own specialists or with us using our Neuro-Proprioceptive Rehabilitation method developed specifically for this purpose.