What Causes Post-Concussion Syndrome?

If you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome (PCS), you may have some questions about the condition. You might want to learn more about potential treatments for post-concussion syndrome or how long it takes to recover from this condition.

Post-concussion syndrome can be worrisome, but the good news is that there are resources available to help. The emergence of post-concussion syndrome is tied to a variety of factors, ranging from the actual head injury to a history of previous concussions and other inflammatory conditions affecting the brain.

In this article, we will answer the commonly asked question: what causes post-concussion syndrome? We will discuss the factors that commonly lead to post-concussion syndrome and how they can be treated to help reduce post concussion symptoms.

If you have any questions about post-concussion syndrome and its causes, please feel free to leave a comment below or send us a message here!

The Initial Head Injury

The primary cause of post-concussion syndrome is usually a blow to the head or another type of head injury that causes a concussion (i.e. whiplash). This type of injury is often referred to as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

These serious injuries will commonly occur as a result of car accidents, bad slips and falls, or collisions during sporting events. Individuals participating in high contact sports, such as hockey, football, rugby, lacrosse, or martial arts are particularly at risk.

A Twisting Force on the Brainstem

When most people think about concussions, they picture the brain banging against the sides of the skull inside your head. While it is true that higher cortical areas of the brain may be damaged in this way, the biggest cause of the most common symptoms of PCS is actually damage to pathways in the brainstem.

All the higher cortical areas of the brain, which control functions like cognition, clarity of thought, and speech, are connected to the spinal cord via the brainstem. When your brain moves inside your head, this creates a twisting force on the brainstem. This twisting force is what typically breaks the fibres of the neural pathway during a traumatic brain injury.

Additional rotational components to the injury, such a collision that jerks your head to one side, may be particularly damaging to the brainstem. The majority of the forces acting on you during a head injury will most impact the brainstem, as the twisting force is greatest in that area.

Previous Concussions

Previous concussions are another major risk factor that contributes to the appearance of post-concussion syndrome. A history of past concussions will make the individual in question more vulnerable to developing PCS symptoms, as their brain will already have injuries and can be further weakened by successive impacts.

Studies have shown that the chances of developing PCS increase with each concussion. This is due to the fact that injured neural pathways in your brain cannot be healed after they have been damaged. However, it is possible to make what remains of your injured pathways more efficient or form new pathways among existing neural networks.

At Northoak, our treatment for brain injuries aims to drive neuroplasticity in the damaged areas of the brain, in order to restore normal brain function. We focus on making your existing pathways more efficient by forming new connections using exercises that are specifically designed to treat your particular injury.

Predisposition Towards Inflammation

At Northoak, one of the other risk factors that we have observed in patients who develop post-concussion syndrome is a predisposition towards inflammation.

When we use the words ‘brain inflammation’, we are not referring to acute conditions, such as encephalitis or meningitis. We are referring to more common, chronic inflammatory ailments elsewhere in the body can contribute to inflammation in the injured areas of the brain. These may include:

  • Allergies and sensitivities
  • Digestive difficulties like IBS
  • Diabetes
  • Different types of arthritis
  • Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Prior history of headaches
  • And more

For more information, click here to read on article on the subject of brain inflammation (and its application to PCS treatment).

While most people are able to shake off the symptoms of a concussion within a month or so, our team has observed that patients who suffer from post-concussion syndrome will often have a history of issues related to inflammation.

As a result, our treatment is tailored to address not only the root cause of their brain injury but also provide recommendations for reducing or eliminating the number of inflammatory triggers in their life. We will commonly suggest dietary changes or nutritional supplements to assist with this process.

For more information, or to get started with a treatment plan for post-concussion syndrome, contact Northoak today.

Woman suffering from post-concussion syndrome depression and anxiety