Treatment for Concussions
There is a dangerous trend of equating an injury with how visible the problem is. Of course a broken bone or a torn ligament is going to create a scene, but this isn’t a failsafe way to judge an injury. When an athlete blows out their knee it becomes something that everyone can see, and the pain on the player’s face merely confirms what everyone else is already thinking: that injury is real, that injury is painful, that person is going to need medical attention.
A broken bone may be visible, but a concussion is in many ways far more serious of a problem. A brain injury requires immediate and ongoing care to ensure that the brain can regain optimal functionality. On television, injuries that turn out to be “just a concussion” are often anti-climactic events that the audience is led to believe will be over in days, if not hours. In real life, however, these traumatic brain injuries — which usually stem from a fall, severe shaking, a car accident or a direct blow to the head — can severely impact a person’s quality of life for several months.
Following brain injury, whether as a result of a sport incident, a car accident, trip and fall, or other event, concussion therapy is absolutely necessary to ensure that there is no lasting damage following the trauma. Left untreated, concussions can even inhibit growth in young children, and bring on early dementia for older patients. Fortunately, the physical therapy field is continually discovering new ways to help patients suffering from long-term concussion complications.
Concussion Therapy Post-Trauma
The severity of a traumatic brain injury can vary dramatically. While some concussions are indeed minor (Grade I), and may not require long-term intervention, other brain injuries can have lifelong consequences (Grade II-III).
In the immediate hours and days following a traumatic brain injury, the best treatment option is to take it easy. Resting your brain means really turning off everything that will stimulate your mind and to simply relax. This means avoiding television, not reading, avoiding intense music, conversation and too much movement. This may not sound like a very entertaining time, but this is what your brain needs to recover. Just like you’d put your feet up for a day or two after injuring your ankle, you need to give your brain time to rest and recover after an injury.
The important thing is to check in with your physician for treatment and to have your brain injury assessed, and then to follow standard post-concussion protocols to give your brain a chance to bounce
back. During this time, rest is absolutely the best way to cope with the uncomfortable symptoms that happen with a concussion, which include vomiting, confusion, weakness and headaches.
After several days, if the symptoms of a brain injury haven’t subsided, then physical therapy is recommended. Seeking out concussion therapy early on can prevent long-term issues and help you experience a quicker return to normalcy.
Without therapeutic intervention, long-term symptoms can include:
- Chronic headaches
- Balance and agility loss
- Sleep disorder
- Muscle weakness and deconditioning
- Reduced athletic performance
The Benefits of Physical Therapy
Concussion therapy is a highly useful tool in supporting recovery from traumatic brain injury. Physical therapy can encourage a return to feeling better by restoring strength, balance, agility, and improving endurance. It is important to work with your therapist to gain guidance regarding the best activities for your body’s needs post-brain injury. Working out alone could lead to further injury.
Physical therapy programs for concussion often build in vestibular therapy, which helps you orient yourself during periods of lightheadedness or loss of balance. To encourage this your physical therapist will introduce you to specialized activities, including fixing your gaze at a certain point in the distance, or using simple movements to stabilize your core and limbs. With proper guidance these strategies can be incredibly helpful in improving quality of life as you recover from a concussion.
A concussion is not something you should ignore. Regardless of the perceived severity, following a brain injury it is incredibly important that you check in with your physician or Doctor of Physical Therapy to ensure that there is no potential for lasting brain damage. If you or a loved one have experienced a concussion, contact Fyzical Franklin and schedule with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy.