Concussion & Post-Concussion Syndrome
It is estimated that there are approximately 500,000 to 2 million concussions that occur per year in North America. Most of these injuries are the result of sporting accidents, but any occurrence where the head is bumped, or even moved abruptly, can cause brain injury.
In many cases, significant injury can occur with seemingly trivial trauma. In fact, recent research has shown that repeated subconcussive impacts without symptoms can be just as damaging over time as confirmed concussions.
Acute Concussion Management
Acute concussion management is best handled in the emergency room. We do not treat acute head injuries at Northoak Chiropractic, so if you have suffered a concussion in the past 24 to 48 hours, we recommend that you seek medical attention.
After receiving emergency care, the best medicine in the first 10 days post-injury is complete physical and mental rest. In the case of mild traumatic brain injury (not involving unconsciousness), 80% to 90% of cases will recover in that first 10 days.
In more severe cases, recovery may take as long as one month. However, in roughly 15% of cases, symptoms persist beyond one month in a phenomenon known as Post Concussion Syndrome or PCS.
Left untreated, symptoms of PCS can persist indefinitely. Active therapy is needed for the best chance of recovery. Conventional medical therapy for PCS is the same as what’s recommended for acute brain injury – more rest. This treatment is not always effective and that is where the team at Northoak Chiropractic can help.
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- Approximately 15% of people who have had a severe concussion have symptoms lasting a year or more.
- 20% of all concussions take three weeks or longer to recover.
- If symptoms persist beyond one month, then Post Concussion Syndrome exists and intervention is necessary.
- Traumatic brain injuries range from mild to severe, but all are dangerous and may cause medical problems that can last for years.
- 47% of all high school concussions in boys are caused by football injuries. Soccer poses the biggest concussion danger for girls.
- The recovery time for all head injuries, including concussion, is much longer in children and teens than adults.
- Many mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are not diagnosed until some time after the injury. Often the person notices difficulty doing something that was once an easy task. Many TBI patients first notice difficulties in social situations.
The Causes of a Concussion
In a concussion or traumatic brain injury, damage is most often caused by:
- The impact of the brain against the inner surface of the skull.
- The twisting force on the brain stem.
While helmets protect the bones of the skull and the skin of the head against injury, they do not protect the brain from internal damage. One common concussion myth is that helmets will protect the wearer against the likelihood of suffering from a concussion — this is not the case.
Signs of Concussions or Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)
Concussions can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms, which may not show up for hours or days after the injury. As explained above, these symptoms can persist for days, weeks, months, or even years. If they remain for longer than one month, then it is an indication that you have developed PCS.
Every injury is different and each person may exhibit different symptoms, as a result of their concussion. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Anxiety and depression
- Balance and dizziness disorders
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty looking at phones and computer screens
- Digestive disturbances (including food intolerances)
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
- Blurred vision
- Insomnia and/or fatigue
- Intolerance of busy visual environments like shopping malls and stores
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Loss of gaze fixation
- Memory problems
- Nausea or vomiting
How Functional Neurology can Help
At Northoak Chiropractic, our state-of-the-art examination and analysis includes:
- Videonystagmography (VNG) — Testing and recording of inner ear function and controlled eye movements as indications of regional brain fucntion.
- Saccadometry — Testing of saccadic eye movements.
- Force Plate Testing — Testing balance through pressure mapping.
These tests allow us to gather objective data on neurological, oculomotor, and balance dysfunction, which can help us identify the areas of injury within the brain as well as the specific functional losses behind the symptoms of PCS.
Using functional neurology techniques, we can then carefully activate these specific areas (remaining within the patient’s tolerance limits) to promote normal firing patterns and repair neural pathways.
Our Approach to PCS Treatment
When treating PCS patients, we do not make any chiropractic adjustments. Instead, we will use gentle eye and body movement exercises, as well as light, sound, and electrical stimulations to drive neural plasticity. Nutritional supplementation and dietary changes are recommended to reduce inflammation and support the formation of new neural connections.
Each treatment plan is unique to the patient and their injury. By repeating the objective testing at regular intervals, functional improvement in response to treatment can be measured. This takes away the guesswork of when the patient has recovered and when it is appropriate to return to work or play. This focused treatment approach has helped high profile athletes (like Sidney Crosby) and others from all walks of life.
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