Concussions are a common form of traumatic brain injury that can result from various activities, such as sports or motor vehicle accidents. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the management of concussions, helping individuals to recover from symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and balance problems.
Sarah Peters - BKIN(CH), R.KIN, CAT(C)
As with all injuries, this information is simply a guide, and it is always best to check in with a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist to have a personalized assessment and hear recommendations for what you and your body may specifically need. In the case of Concussions, we also recommend that you are followed by your family doctor.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is usually caused by either a whiplash injury or an impact to the head that causes your head and brain to have a sudden jar. Some examples of mechanisms for injury might be a car accident, a fall where you hit your head or shake it violently, hitting your head on something while moving or the impact of a moving object striking your head. Concussions can happen in any age group and can be a result of a sports injury, a workplace injury, a playground injury or any normal daily activity that goes wrong.
What Does a Concussion Feel Like?
Symptoms may show up immediately or may take hours or days to be obvious. The main symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea, blurry vision and ringing in the ears. Generally, only one or a few of these symptoms are present, so if you don’t have all 5, do not assume you do not have a concussion. You may also lose consciousness or have a poor memory of the event in which you were injured or any time after that and you may notice differences in your ability to balance, concentrate or smell. You may have extreme or unusual mood swings, sensitivity to light or noise, confusion, drowsiness or lethargy or slowed reaction times. Any and all of these symptoms are signs that your brain is not functioning at full capacity. Carrying out tasks and automatic brain processing that we previously took for granted, suddenly becomes difficult and exhausting as well as symptom provoking. Heart rate increases also tend to increase symptoms.
How is a Concussion Diagnosed?
Concussions are one of the most difficult injuries to diagnose as we cannot feel or assess the brain from the outside. Generally doctors or Physiotherapists or Athletic Therapists will use a subjective history or the mechanism of injury as well as a series of tests that test your cranial nerves to diagnose a concussion and the severity. They may test things like your pupils reaction to light, the ability of the eyes to track a moving object, your balance or your memory. In more severe cases, sometimes a CT scan or MRI are needed to assess the internal structure of the brain. Sometimes a referral to an Optometrist to fully assess occulomotor abilities is also indicated.
How Can Physiotherapy Help with a Concussion?
Your Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist can provide education on how to proceed immediately following a concussion. One of the first things to be extremely aware of is your brain’s need for rest. Ideally, in early stages, rest will be at a maximum or possibly 24/7. If you cannot rest that much, rest when you can and for as long as you can. Avoiding bright light, computer or device screens, loud noises and situations where your brain has to process a lot, such as crowds, watching hockey games or full work days can also help you heal. You will soon discover the things that make you worse and learn to avoid them. You may find you have a decreased capacity for work and activity and that you need to keep the volume low with frequent rests.
Your Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist will assess your injury and symptoms to create a customized treatment plan with you. Registered Massage Therapists can be very helpful in treating concussions as well. A specialized form of treatment called Craniosacral Treatment is available from therapists trained in it and can be highly effective in treating concussions. All types of treatment can help provide symptom relief through manual therapy and exercises.
Promote Optimal Healing
When all bases are covered and treatment and exercises are used to reduce symptoms and promote healing, optimal healing can take place and you can return to normal as quickly as possible.
Restore Neck Mobility and Range of Motion
Manual therapy will be focused on treating the tension in muscles and joints in the neck and at the base of the skull as well as in and around some of the bones and muscles of the skull, including the jaw.
Return to Sport and Life Safely
Your daily activities, work, school, sports, and electronics can be gradually increased as your symptoms decrease, but should be done with the guidance of your therapist on a specific plan. Both mental and physical activities need to be considered. Your concussion therapist can also work with you to help you regain the strength and conditioning you may have lost while recovering. Your symptoms will be carefully monitored as you progress back to your normal life in a specific, graduated way. Taking on too much too soon can bring symptoms back and slow down healing and recovery.
What are the best exercises to help with Concussions?
Neck Range of Motion
Position yourself in a tall sitting or semi-reclined position. Tuck your chin in and turn your head to one side and then the other for 10 repetitions in each direction.
Lift one arm and bring it up and across your head. Sit straight and place the palm of your hand on your head. Use your hand to pull your head gently down towards your shoulder until a stretch is felt on the opposite side of the neck. Maintain the position. Do not turn your head or tilt it forward or backwards while you perform this stretch.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. (This can be done in any position once you understand it) Place your fingers just in and down from your hip bones so you can monitor the muscle contraction. To engage the pelvic floor muscles, pull up inside as if you were stopping yourself from peeing. To engage the transverse abdominus muscle you can picture a line connecting your hip bones and try to connect them or draw gently your belly button in towards your spine. Make sure that your superficial abdominals stay relaxed and that you continue to breathe. Finally, contract your gluts, by squeezing your bum muscles. Your core is the basis of stability for your postural muscles up the spine to the head and are important base of support for head injuries.
Scapular Retraction/Postural Activation
Contract your core first. Then squeeze your shoulder blades back and down towards your spine. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and do throughout the day.
Lie on your back. Slowly tuck your chin inward and pull yourself taller as if there is a rope pulling the back of your head. Maintain the position and relax. Notice how pressure of your head on the table moves down towards the neck. Try to relax all the large front muscles.
How Can you Prevent Concussions?
Concussion prevention is more important than management. Helmets and head protective gear in sports that require them are key. Safety in sport and proper training before performing skills that could injure the head are also important. Listening to your body and having a trained professional involved is also important. Often the worst concussions result from compounding concussions or further injury because activity is not stopped immediately after a mild concussion is sustained. Education and awareness can prevent concussions or prevent the worsening of an existing concussion.
What is the fastest way to heal a Concussion?
A concussion is essentially a bruise to the brain. The severity of a concussion will determine the length of time it takes to heal and recover and if complete recovery is possible. While they are not typically life-threatening, they can have serious implications on your ability to perform regular daily activities for at least the short term. It is important to take every opportunity to heal in the early days, so that the best possible and fastest outcome can be achieved.
Contact Us For Help
Inertia Physio+ offers Kanata and Stittsville exceptional Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy and Registered Massage Therapy with private treatment rooms, one on one care, a maximum of two patients per hour and treatment focused on the evidence-based practices of manual and exercise therapy. Don’t suffer any longer. If you have pain or injury, our Kanata and Stittsville Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy, and Registered Massage Therapy team is here to help you get back to living pain-free life and activities. Please reach out to us at(613) 672-2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment today! You are also welcome to book online. We also offer direct billing on Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy services whenever your plan allows.