Concussions: Common, complex, controversial, and challenging.
There has been a significant increase in awareness of concussions over the past decade. Many people can say they personally know someone who has had a concussion, or have had one themselves. The definition of a concussion, according to the Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport, is “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces”. However, this definition does not fully convey the challenges and the complexity often associated with sustaining a concussion.
There are various misconceptions about concussions, some of the common ones include:
- A direct hit to the head is needed to have a concussion.
- You must lose consciousness to have had a concussion.
- You must completely rest in a dark room until all symptoms stop post concussion.
- Concussion symptoms will always just go away with time.
All of the above (based on our current understanding of concussions) are false!
- A direct hit to the head is not required to sustain a concussion (such as with rapid head movement sustained during whiplash).
- Concussions frequently do not result in losing consciousness (although loss of consciousness can occur).
- Short term/initial rest periods (24-48 hours) may be helpful immediately following a concussion. Unfortunately, prolonged or complete rest periods may actually delay recovery (medical assessment and guidance is always recommended following concussion events).
- Concussion symptoms usually improve during the recovery period, however some individuals have continued symptoms, such as in “Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS)”.
Symptoms and Recovery
While many concussions fully recover over 2-4 weeks, concussion events can result in lasting symptoms and challenges, or “sticking points”. This is due to a concussion impacting other systems of the body. These can include the vision, vestibular (inner ear/balance), neck, cognitive, psychological and energy systems. While anyone who has sustained a concussion should be seen by a medical professional, those with residual symptoms/difficulties will also benefit from consulting additional healthcare professionals. This will depend on which symptoms and body systems are affected (such as seeing an optometrist if there has been vision changes). Residual or persisting effects of concussions can be challenging and often affect day to day life. However, it is important to know that many concussion difficulties can be successfully treated with physiotherapy.
Beginning physiotherapy for a concussion or post concussion symptoms starts with a thorough assessment to help develop a comprehensive plan. Physiotherapy will look different for every individual depending on their specific symptoms, challenges and goals (no one concussion is the same); however, physiotherapy for concussion often includes:
- Exercise therapy
- Manual therapy (commonly for the neck)
- Vestibular and balance therapy
- Individualized education on reducing/managing symptoms
Physiotherapy may also be helpful in more recent concussions, and in helping to guide and facilitate successful return to activities such as school, work and sports. If you are currently struggling with concussion symptoms or deficits post concussion, consulting with a concussion trained physiotherapist may be the next step to returning to and enjoying the activities that matter most in your life.
Bellefleur Physiotherapy currently offers concussion physiotherapy at our Beechwood location. If you have any questions or wish to have a free discovery session to learn if concussion physiotherapy may be right for you, we’d be glad to help!
-This article was prepared by Christopher Rigby, a Physiotherapist with experience dealing with concussions and vestibular conditions.