FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers Concussion Program
FYZICAL Albuquerque knows how important it is to receive an evaluation and treatment for a concussion resulting from head trauma.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that is caused by violent shaking of the brain inside the skull. Injury can occur from a collision to the head or whiplash and can result in immediate or delayed symptoms to any area of the brain, depending on how trauma occurs. A concussion can cause swelling, bruising, loss of consciousness (<10% of the time), and changes in brain function.
Concussions can be the result of many different scenarios, including:
- Sports injuries to the head (such as from a soccer header or hard football tackle)
- Falls (the leading cause of concussions)
- Motor vehicle accidents (such as whiplash or a direct blow to the head)
- Work-related injuries (such as slipping or being struck by falling objects)
- Violent events (such as physical abuse, assaults, or domestic violence)
- Being near a blast or explosion
Recovery from a concussion is slow and can take weeks, months, and sometimes years, depending on the age of the affected person and severity of the injury. Other injuries that can be treated by a licensed physical therapist may occur simultaneously, such as neck and upper back strains/sprains and shoulder injuries. Repeated concussions, usually from playing sports, can lead to long-term, cumulative brain damage.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion
There is a broad spectrum of concussion symptoms that can affect not only the physical but also the mental and emotional components of the human brain. Therefore, it is essential to work with a physical therapist who gets to know you, your family, and your teammates or coworkers who could notice any changes that might occur in you.
Immediate and short-lived concussion symptoms
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Nausea and often vomiting
- Daytime fatigue along with difficulty sleeping
- Double vision or blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Slurred speech
- Increased sleepiness
- Loss or limitations of short or long-term memory
- Confusion and inability to focus
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating on work or school
- Slower speed of processing or working through problems
- Change in personality
- Irritability and/or aggression
- Decreased stress tolerance
- Mood swings or changes in behavior
Long-term concussion symptoms
- Chronic headaches or dizziness
- Weight gain
- Growth problems (in children only)
- Muscle weakness or muscle spasticity.
- Loss of libido
- Loss of menstruation
- Low blood pressure
- Early dementia/ Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (with repeated concussions)
A group of symptoms that persist for longer than three months (sometimes up to or more than a year) can be labeled as post-concussion syndrome. Approximately 15% of individuals who suffer a single concussion will have persistent concussion symptoms—such as headaches and dizziness—that last longer than three months.
If a person suffers one concussion and then experiences another concussion before the first has completely healed, they are at high risk for permanent brain damage or death. Research shows that a person who has suffered a second impact before the first concussion has had time to heal has a 100% chance of permanent brain damage and a 50% chance of dying. Permanent brain damage symptoms include learning disabilities, personality changes, loss of balance and coordination, or various other neurological symptoms.
It is vital that an athlete who suffers a concussion be immediately removed from play to avoid second-impact syndrome. A physical therapist will monitor a patient's symptoms to gradually return them to sports, work, or general activities of daily living. It is important to give a complete medical history to your physical therapist, so that they are aware of any pre-existing medical conditions such as migraines, ADHD, or learning disabilities.
How is a concussion diagnosed?
Concussions are diagnosed using a combination of physical examination, extensive questioning of the individual, and diagnostic testing—such as CT or MRI scans. Your physical therapist uses extensive questioning to determine how your brain is processing information. They will also evaluate your strength, balance, coordination, vision, hearing, memory, and mobility in your neck. Throughout treatment, your physical therapist will consistently question you to gauge your progress with memory, cognitive processing, and mood.
Your physical therapist will help you adjust your routine and show you ways to gradually resume physical activity while allowing your brain to heal properly. Treatment that enables you to return to your normal life in the quickest and safest way possible should include:
- Rest - A period of prolonged rest after a concussion is critical for maximizing one's potential for a full recovery. Your physical therapist can help you navigate this simple first treatment and monitor when you should return to everyday activities like work or school. This period of rest helps the brain heal and increases the chances that your symptoms resolve as quickly as possible.
- Increasing strength & endurance - A decrease in activity after a concussion can significantly reduce muscular strength and overall physical endurance. Your physical therapist will prescribe a progression of exercise to best suit your specific needs without increasing your concussion symptoms. It is common for high-level athletes or fit “weekend warriors” to experience exercise intolerance when getting back into fitness following a concussion. Therefore, it is very important that you follow the expertise of a concussion specialist or physical therapist.
- Improving balance & eliminating dizziness - A form of physical therapy called vestibular rehabilitation can make a massive impact on your recovery if you have dizziness and balance difficulties following a concussion. The vestibular system is a sensory system found in your inner ear that reports information back to the brain about balance and prevention of dizziness. A Certified Vestibular Physical Therapist can halt or help reduce dizziness and balance problems by applying a proprietary system of exercises and treatments to be done in-clinic and at home.
- Headache reduction - Chronic headaches can be a persistent problem following a concussion. Your physical therapist is experienced in hands-on manual therapy skills and stretches for the neck and shoulders, specific exercises that target the deep neck muscles, and exercises for your eyes and visual system.
- A plan to return to sport or normal activities - Once you can tolerate exercise and have built up strength and endurance without increasing your concussion symptoms, your physical therapist will help you gradually add additional tasks, exercises, and activities into your daily routine. They will monitor your response to these additions and prevent you from overloading the brain so that you don't interfere with the normal progression of healing after a concussion.
How can FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers Help?
The natural fatigue and required resting that early concussion recovery entails often results in weakened muscles and lowered endurance. To combat that, your physical therapist at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers will customize a strength-building program for you, as well as guide you through aerobic moves that help you regain that endurance.
The physical therapists at FYZICAL Albuquerque specialize in concussion treatment and vestibular rehab. They have the specialized knowledge and skills required to evaluate and treat your concussion symptoms correctly.
Call us at (505) 292-3317 or request an appointment to learn about your concussion management and physical therapy options in Albuquerque today!