What is a Concussion?

 

Concussion:

A concussion is also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).  When a concussion occurs, the brain tissue is disrupted causing chemical changes that interfere with normal neuron (brain cell) activity and function.  Falls, sports, motor vehicle accidents, and a blow to the head can all cause a concussion.  Football, hockey, and soccer are higher risk sports for concussion injury. 

 

Temporary loss of consciousness, "blacking out", and/or feeling disoriented may occur immediately following a concussion.  Other initial symptoms may include amnesia (memory loss) of the event, headache, vomiting, feeling "off" or "dazed", blurred vision, slurred speech, dizziness, and/or sleepiness.  On average, 80% of people who sustain a concussion recover in 10-14 days. 

 

Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS):

For some, concussion symptoms may persist for weeks or months, resulting in Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS).  Symptoms of PCS can include headaches, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances, light/sound sensitivity, neck pain, anxiety, and/or visual disturbances (i.e. double vision).  It is common for symptoms to change, disappear, or reappear over time.  Recovery from PCS can take months or even years, but the body and brain can always heal (neuroplasticity!).  No two concussion's are identical in injury, treatment, or recovery.  Healing opportunity can be improved by creating an individualized, holistic, and whole-body plan to address your specific symptoms and limitations.

 

Recovery:

Concussion recovery can be complex, and seeing multiple healthcare providers is common.  Ideally, evaluation and treatment should be sought immediately after initial injury.  It is no longer recommended to "cocoon" after injury - do not shut yourself in a black room and do nothing!  Relative rest is important post-injury followed by progressive return to activity (as symptoms allow) to improve healing and recovery.

Even if you did not receive immediate treatment following a concussion, treatment can still be effective months later, or even years later, to help improve symptoms and function.

 

Physical Therapy Evaluation:

There is no single test or scan that can diagnosis a concussion.  An MRI or CT scan can help rule out major brain damage, but neither is sensitive enough to detect a concussion.  An in-depth clinical exam (examples listed below) can help diagnosis a concussion.

  • Posture

  • Cervical mobility

  • Balance

  • Exercise tolerance via Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test

  • Visual processing

  • Vestibular ocular reflex (VOR)

  • Coordination

 

Physical Therapy Treatment

  • Cervical spine joint and soft tissue mobilization

  • Trigger Point Dry Needling

  • Vestibular Rehabilitation Exercises

  • Aerobic exercise progression

  • Balance training

  • Sympathetic dampening (to calm the nervous system)

Health Coaching

  • Caregiver and family education

  • Lifestyle changes and strategies

  • Healthy eating and nutrition

  • Exercise progression

  • Yoga

  • Activity modification

  • Support and accountability