Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that usually happens after a blow to the head. It can also occur with violent shaking and movement of the head or body. You don’t have to lose consciousness to get a concussion or experience persistent post-concussive symptoms. In fact, the risk of developing persistent post-concussive symptoms doesn’t appear to be associated with the severity of the initial injury.

Persistent post-concussive symptoms, also called post-concussion syndrome, occurs when concussion symptoms last beyond the expected recovery period after the initial injury.

There is often a misconception when it comes to the severity of post-concussion syndrome. Many ignore the symptoms that follow after a concussion, without knowing how severe they may be.

Today, are going to highlight the importance of understanding and working through post-concussion syndrome with hopes of shining some light on concussion awareness.

Causes of Post-Concussion Syndrome

Some experts believe persistent post-concussive symptoms are caused by structural damage to the brain or disruption of the messaging system within the nerves, caused by the impact that caused the concussion.

Others believe persistent post-concussive symptoms are related to psychological factors. The most common symptoms — headache, dizziness and sleep problems — are similar to those often experienced by people diagnosed with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is important to note that you do not need a physical head injury to be diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.

In many cases, both physical damage of brain trauma and emotional reactions to these effects play a role in the development of symptoms.

However, some research shows that certain factors are more common in people who develop persistent post-concussive symptoms compared with those who don’t. These factors include a history of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, significant life stressors, a poor social support system and lack of coping skills.

Symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome

It is tricky to differentiate symptoms associated with concussions and post-concussion syndrome, as they are very similar. However, addressing and recognizing the symptoms with post-concussion syndrome, is crucial.

Persistent post-concussive symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of concentration and memory
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurry vision
  • Noise and light sensitivity
  • Rarely, decreases in taste and smell

Post-concussion headaches can vary and may feel like tension-type headaches or migraines. Most often, they are tension-type headaches. These may be associated with a neck injury that happened at the same time as the head injury.

Prevention & Action

The only known way to prevent the development of persistent post-concussive symptoms is to avoid the head injury in the first place.

However, just like everything in life, things happen and head injuries aren’t always avoidable!

Therefore, it is important to illustrate the action you can take in order to help build coping skills when it comes to post-concussion syndrome.

Most people with post-concussion syndrome are able to recover with rest and by minimizing stress.

Most health care providers will treat symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. For example, migraine or pain medications may be prescribed for those with headache. A specialist such as a neurologist and/or psychiatrist may also be involved to treat mental health symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome when it comes to CT and MRI scans.

How We Can Help

Alongside the traditional modalities in place to help you navigate the world of post-concussion syndrome, there are many holistic wellness modalities that are just as effective when it comes to helping you cope with post-concussion syndrome.

1. Acupuncture: Dry Needling

Dry needling and acupuncture can help relieve certain post-concussion symptoms. They are not a cure-all, either for acute concussion or post-concussion syndrome, but if you suffer from headaches, neck and back pain, or nausea, acupuncture and dry needling is a step in the right direction when it comes to relief.

Acupuncture can increase blood flow at the site of needling, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain. Acupuncture may include directly interacting with muscle (dry needling) but is mainly performed on specific points of interaction with the nervous system (acupuncture points). As a result, it may help patients who suffer from headaches, neck tension and pain, nausea, and other physical symptoms of a concussion.

2. Osteopathy: Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial Osteopathy involves gentle “hands-on” treatment aiming to normalize the tension within the system of membranes housing the brain and the spinal cord called meninges. Because the membranes are attached to the inner part of the skull, and are not accessible directly, only a trained practitioner is able to help normalize the tension and restore the balance within the network. This is done by applying gentle pressure along specific points of the outer surface of the cranium (head).

It is believed that restoring proper balance and tension within the meningeal network helps normalize the pressure and the flow of fluids (blood, cerebrospinal fluid, etc) inside the cranial cavity.  This can produce a positive effect on hormone secretion, which ultimately results in better function of the central nervous system and the body as a whole.

3. Occupational Therapy: Cognitive Rehabilitation

Cognition refers to information-processing functions, including attention, memory, and executive functions (i.e., planning, problem solving, self- monitoring, self-awareness). Functional cognition is the interaction of cognitive skills and self-care, and community living skills. It refers to the thinking and processing skills needed to accomplish complex everyday activities such as household and financial management, medication management, volunteer activities, driving, and work.

Occupational therapy practitioners focus their interventions on the relationship between the client’s cognitive skills, functional performance, and environmental context to enhance the daily life experience of individuals with cognitive impairment. They can help with memory loss issues by allowing you to develop strategies that will help to decrease post-concussion syndrome side effects, as well as implement strategies that will help you cope with the symptoms in your every day life.

4. Physiotherapy: Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular therapy is a specialized type of manual therapy in which the physiotherapist primarily massages, stretches, and manipulates soft tissue. Tight muscles in one area can put pressure on nerves, which can cause pain. When muscles relax, blood flow increases, which reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of healthy cells. 

Neuromuscular therapy helps patients find relief from headaches and neck pain, among other symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome.

5. Massage Therapy: Tension Relief

With massage therapy the goal is to decrease the individual’s headache frequency, intensity, duration and acute medication requirements.

Post-concussion headaches are multifactorial with evidence for the contributions of muscles and other structures surrounding the cervical spine. A massage therapy treatment plan is implemented based on patient-specific assessment findings and patient tolerance. A manual approach is used to help relieve some of that tension associated with post-concussion syndrome on the physical side.

If you are experiencing post-concussion symptoms that have not resolved on their own, you are not alone.

Many have gone before you and found real relief from their suffering. We won’t promise you a miraculous one-week recovery that fully restores your pre-injury self, but we can give you a fighting chance. With perseverance, hard work, and good medical treatment, you are able to break free from the confines of post-concussion syndrome.