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Riding with Bell's Palsy

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  • Riding with Bell's Palsy

    Hi Guys

    On Monday I woke up with Bell's Palsy- the whole left side of my face is paralyzed and so off we went to the ER. Luckily it isn't Lyme's or Diabetes related nor was it a stroke and because of all the symptoms I showed on the classic bell's Palsy timeline, they have determined that it is indeed Bell's brought on by stress.

    So now my doctor says I shouldn't ride until we start seeing some improvement, which means it could be days weeks months or even permanent. He says that any more trauma to the nerve could make a temporary situation stick around longer and that I should try to take it easy for the next few weeks, even though riding is my way of relaxing, there are too many what ifs that could cause this to remain permanent.

    But I want to ride. Our first event was supposed to be this past weekend and now that I am out of sorts, I am even more miserable having been grounded for the time being.

    Has anyone on here ever had Bell's Palsy? How long did it take for yours to go away? i am already getting some eye twitches and mouth tingles again after 1 week of steroids so that is positive. Were you able to still ride or did you take time off too? How long did it take for your coordination to get back and your eyes to go back to normal (my biggest problem is my eye)?

    I appreciate anyone's advice. I won't be riding for awhile I know that but I also know that if this is going to be a long term thing I won't let it keep me on the ground, even if I have to relearn how to ride with it.

  • #2
    I have a congenital craniofacial condition that's very similar to Bell's Palsy. I'm pretty careful with my eyes at the barn (lots of eye drops!) and try to be ultra-cognizant when I'm riding with others in the arena due to my vision issues.


    • Original Poster

      With your vision issues, did you have to learn to ride differently? Sometimes my eyes get very blurry and so my coordination gets wacky, plus the steroids I am on make things a bit wonky for me anyway.

      What type of riding are you doing? Are you able to jump at all? We were about to start eventing and I am thinking that I won't be able to do more than just dressage at this point because I can't focus very well in the one eye.

      I once heard a story (not sure how it would be possible) about a girl who was blind that did lower level jumpers. I have to think that she was legally blind because I can't imagine how she could see to jump but I was told that she counted strides and basically just sat her hors. I can't for the life of my imagine that being a true story unless she was blind in only one eye or just legally blind. But there are people who do overcome the unthinkable so maybe it is true!

      As for me, I am weaning myself off of the steroids because they make me super duper aggressive (on the advice from the doc) so perhaps that will help some with my coordination once they are gone from my system. I have experimented with googles and eye patches but they take some getting used to. Mostly I am concerned with the lack of coordination that seems to stem from the lack of focusing in my left eye. Do you have this problem yourself?


      • #4
        My DH had Bell's Palsy as a child. I didn't know him then, so I don't know how long it took for the symptoms to go away - but I'll ask him tonight and let you know.

        I know that he's always played sports, so I think any coordination issues were temporary. He's never ridden, though, so I can't ask him about that.

        The only permanent condition is that his eye still tears when he eats.

        If I were you, I'd go by the doctor's advice for the next few weeks. I know it's hard, but as of right now they're not asking you to permanently give up riding.
        I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


        • #5
          Stop riding for now!

          Each case is different of course. Go with what your doctor says. It'll probably just be several weeks so take a chill pill and give in for awhile. Yes we all get sick and yes we all have to give up things while we are recooperating. It's all good. You will be too. Be patient.


          • #6
            wow- Bells Palsy is not fun. Mine was partially permanent. Unfortunately, my Doc didn't perscribe steroids but tried Cipro instead. It didn't work.
            Anyhow, I did not curtail any activity during the first 6 months. I did use eye drops (and a patch) for the first couple of months. (my vision and balance were not affected)

            Though I'd listen to the Doctor, I'd also do whatever I could to reduce stress. Maybe spend some time on the ground with your horse.

            Good luck!


            • #7
              Hang in there!

              I've had Bell's Palsy, too, and will join the chorus of "it sucks!". I wasn't riding at the time, so can't comment on that, but was working 2 part-time jobs and taking classes. I took the first few days after Dx off, because I was having significant speech and swallowing issues. Probably wouldn't have ridden anyway, as my head/jaw were painful.

              My case was acute-complete Left sided... complete with needing to use a straw in the side of my mouth to drink, and eye drops and patch at night (couldn't close the eye). I don't recall being on Pred for inflammation; it was probably ibuprofen in big doses. I also worked with a holistic practitioner, who had me on large doses of vitamins and minerals that are said to aid nerve regeneration (I want to say B vit's, but not positive on that), and doing facial muscle-building excerises (look them up online).

              In the end, I recovered anout 90-95%, closer to 95. Doctors do still note a very mild assymetry/facial weakness, but honestly, I just barely notice anything even in photos anymore. (This all happened in 2002, about 6 weeks before my engagement party, and the pictures we had taken that day only show slight facial assymetry-- today's pictures show even less). The only thing for me today is knowing that having had it happen once makes you more likely to have it happen again, with less recovery each time. But whatcha gonna do, right?

              Sorry for such a long post. Please try to take it slow and easy and give your body time and support to heal as best it can. Good luck!


              • #8
                DH says he had it when he was sixteen, and he thinks it took a couple of months for the facial paralysis to go away. He was on prednisone.

                He says he doesn't remember any restrictions on his activity, but it's been a long time ago, so there may have been.

                Hope you have a similarly successful resolution.
                I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


                • #9
                  I had Bell's a few years ago and never stopped riding. Mine wasn't severe enough to affect my vision but it definitely, for lack of a better word, sucked. I still have partial paralysis in my face - you only see it when I'm really tired or really stressed and go to smile, but it never went completely back to normal.

                  Not to scare you or anything; I'm still fully functional and I doubt most people can tell, it just acts up sometimes (like right now, haha) and I notice it. It hasn't slowed me down at all though. Hugs to you!!
                  Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!


                  • #10
                    I had it a few years ago, but it was a mild case. My eye wasn't affected at all, just my mouth. Dr. gave me prednisone and an anti-viral med, and it was gone in about 2 and half weeks. There was no discussion of limiting physical activity so I didn't. Haven't had any recurrence. Hope yours resolves quickly.


                    • #11
                      I don't have any advice for you and hope that things get better for you!

                      As an accident prone person....hit by a car (4 ankle surgeries), kicked by a horse (2 knee surgeries now osteoarthritis) and then a handful of mouth surgeries.....don't rush to get back into riding. Believe me I KNOW it sucks...I remember riding bareback with a cast on my right ankle. It's not worth the potential problems to rush and get on too soon. If you want to be at the barn then go and groom your horse or give him a bath. It not the same and you will long to ride but at least you can be with your horse.
                      "The horse you get off f is not the same horse you got on. It is your job as a rider to ensure that as often as possible, the change is for the better" - unknown author


                      • #12
                        I had it 2 yrs ago- recovered fully in about 6 weeks or so. I think I still have some residual damage in terms of my taste buds- I don't think I taste as well as I once did. Hasn't helped me lose any weight, darn it.

                        I rode, my nose ran, I used eye drops. It sucked. I cried a lot. Somedays I taped my eye shut so I could quit thinking about it, and I had to sleep that way. I did mostly take it easy, but I did ride a little. Chasing a handkerchief for my nose was a bitch.
                        Me smiling. Sorta.The entire L side of my face was incommunicado.

                        at the same time, my old horse Jake poked a stick in his eye. Nice.


                        my vet would come check and ask about ME first. Fun fun. At least Jake got to pull a Phantom of the Opera in his pant's leg hoodie

                        We're both 100%. You'll be fine



                        • #13
                          Oh, so sorry!!

                          All I can offer up is the reassurance that there are things you can do on the ground that will still keep you going, and make your saddle reentry even better.

                          Be aware of the infamous pred crash...taper off slowly.
                          a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


                          • Original Poster

                            Thanks for the support. While I am not happy that any of you have had to endure this, I am glad to know that other riders have been through this. It is not easy and yes it does suck BIG TIME!!! I was not happy with my looks previously due to having gained so much weight a few years ago, now I am even more self conscious and if I had to say that anything good has come from this, it is that I have learned to appreciate myself a bit better. I am hoping that this will subside sooner than later and since I am starting to feel tingles and twitches, that makes me hopeful. I am trying to stay positive through this but knowing that I am the type of person who wouldn't have any luck at all if it wasn't for bad luck, I am trying to prepare myself should this become permanent, which was the reason for my initial post.
                            This came as a shocker during a very high stress time so in retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised that it happened. I am very thankful that it wasn't a stroke and it has woken me up to some very hard facts that I need to face about my health.
                            I am take Pred but because I tend to be an aggressive person anyway, the Pred has made me super aggressive and so I am already tapering myself off and adding lots of B vitamins to my day. I go for a follow up tomorrow if I can get in and hopefully I won't have to continue the steroids. Personally I'd rather take anti-depressants than the steroids- at least I could sleep (and not have to pee every 5 minutes!) when I did so we'll see if I can get back on those again. I am taking lots of ibuprofen and alternating it with Naproxen (Aleve) so I don't build up a tolerance again like I did after my miscarriages a few years ago.
                            At night I am wearing a sleep mask, and it helps. So does Melatonin but now that I am getting some feeling back, there is pain in my jaw and ear and neck. I have seen some lift in my bottom lip but not much in my upper and yes, I do drink with a straw, slurp my food and try to eat in private so I don't embarrass myself. It's not a pretty sight.
                            I hope the doctor will have some positive things to say tomorrow. Luckily, my coordination is a bit better after he told me to taper down the Pred and my eyes aren't as watery so hopefully I won't have to keep on it.

                            As far as me in the barn, well, that is where I find my peace most of the time. I know that I have to wait to ride for awhile and I can do that. As I said, I am mostly thinking about the what if's because in my life the what if's are what is happening so I like to be prepared.
                            Me and my guy do need ground time and so this happening is making that happen. He needs more muscle and so we are working on the lunge, and on how not to panic at every little thing so me being grounded is a good thing right now. I realize that. He just went through a bad wormy time so we did a Powerpak and his GI needs some time to heal too from the nasty buggers so this is forcing us to step back a notch and work on basics a bit longer. I'm okay with that, or at least I am trying to tell myself I am. I adore my horse and whatever time we spend together so as bad as it is that I can't ride, I'm still going to enjoy him as best as I can.


                            • #15

                              As a nurse; I gotta endorse the steroids as the way to go. Most folks are treated with them and yes they can "jazz" you up in the higher dose ranges. And they can give you a ravenous appetite too!! Lay off the caffeine; give in with some carbs. Enjoy the rush and energy. Clean your closets or something! If you are on them longer term; you do get acclimated to them. Takes some time.

                              Caution: should you decide to get some antidepressants - NEVER take melatonin while on antidepressants. And give up on the vitamin therapy; some illnesses just don't respond to holistic therapies.


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by wateryglen View Post
                                As a nurse; I gotta endorse the steroids as the way to go. Most folks are treated with them and yes they can "jazz" you up in the higher dose ranges. And they can give you a ravenous appetite too!! Lay off the caffeine; give in with some carbs. Enjoy the rush and energy. Clean your closets or something! If you are on them longer term; you do get acclimated to them. Takes some time.

                                Caution: should you decide to get some antidepressants - NEVER take melatonin while on antidepressants. And give up on the vitamin therapy; some illnesses just don't respond to holistic therapies.

                                Well I talked to my doctor and he said that I should cut back and start tapering off the pred because of the issues I have been having with it, but mostly because of the heightened aggressiveness I have been having. It's counterproductive to take it as it makes me even more stressed out from the crazy aggressiveness and lack of sleep I have been having. It was stress that caused this in the first place so I have to try taper down and get back to a normal mental state so I can try to get through this.

                                To make matters worse, I am PMSing during this as well and I suffer from PMDD, so the Pred is really not a good thing right now mentally. I don't mean to be crude in talking about THAT but I say that so that I don't sound like a wimpy roid raging ninny.

                                Tomorrow I see the doctor and hopefully some good will be said.


                                • Original Poster

                                  So the appointment went well. Dr said that he is happy I am feeling twitches again and did take me off of the Pred- WOOHOO! He did prescribe Vicodan for me to help me get through the night and I am ok to start riding again in about a week or so once my body gets back to life without roid rage again.
                                  Now I feel like I am going through withdrawal as I have a HORRIBLE headache but I can manage that.
                                  So now we just wait for it to clear itself up. Fingers and toes crossed that it will.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    rode for the first time last night!

                                    It's been a month now and while my Bell's Palsy has improved some, I still can not blink my eye or move the left side of my mouth. Needless to say, I was very anxious about riding again because with my eye being wonky, I do have some balance concerns.
                                    Since I have issues especially during the day in the sunlight we rode last night at dusk. The weather was beautiful and the moon was just coming out. The flies had happily gone someplace else.
                                    I lunged my boy first for about 20 minutes to get his kinks out and when it was time to ride, I had a friend on the end of the lunge, just in case. (Not entirely sure what she could have done but it was more for my nerves than anything)
                                    Well, he hated being on the lunge with me on his back, couldn't balance himself (first time we ever did that anyway) so we unclicked the lunge and he behaved beautifully, a little forward but after a month off it was expected.
                                    I had no issues with my balance and in fact, we looked and felt better than we had the last ride, albeit, he thought we were in a bucking bronco class at our farm's gaming show the last time we rode
                                    I was (for lack of a better explanation) ecstatic last night. Our 15 minute ride made me feel so good and I think it made him feel good too. he'd been giving me that "Mom come ride me. I'm bored. Let's play!" look all week so I think he enjoyed it too, and normally he hates it when we ride at night.
                                    I plan to get back slowly and make sure we can handle it but I think I'll be ok to ride. My balance was actually better than before the Palsy- my left side was always my stronger side and that's the side of my face that's paralyzed right now so maybe this whole mess will help me strengthen my right side.


                                    • #19
                                      Hi Onelove - I had Bells Palsy when I was around 13 years old. Same thing woke up one morning and bam, couldn't move my right side of my face. To the ER and same- not lymes or anything. I was on pred for a while and ran the course with it. Then after about 3 months still no improvement so I had a dentist appt with a horsie friend and she did a panoramic xray. Right there it was clear that my jaw was out of whack and pushing on the nerve. She refered me to this great Chiro who started seeing me right away. He got me mostly back to normal after about 3 months of visits. So then we got to thinking that mine was caused from a fall where both me and the pony sliped and went down and hitting my head caused the jaw to hit the nerve. My symptoms will mildly come back so I know its time to see the chiro and I am now 28. Sorry this is long winded but I hope you are doing well and back to normal!


                                      • #20
                                        Anything is possible if you have the dedication. 1:50 - 2:40


                                        Best of luck to you, I'm glad you're doing better.
                                        "The FEI is often in error, but never in doubt." - Jim Wofford

                                        "You do not find the happy life. You make it." - Camilla Eyring Kimball