The incidence of concussions has been on the rise over the past few years and there has been a large campaign directed towards educating the general public about the signs and symptoms of a concussion and what to do in the event that a concussion is suspected. Unfortunately the vast majority of people are unaware of what potential treatment options there are beyond general rest. Recent high quality research has demonstrated that various physiotherapy treatment approaches can help aid in the recovery process and reduce the overall recovery period. A variety of different regions can contribute to concussion symptoms and can include:
Neck Pain & Headaches: The initial impact not only puts force on the head, but also generates a great deal of stress on the neck. This can result in injury to the neck joints, ligaments, muscles and special neck sensors called proprioceptors. These injuries can result not only in neck pain, but also contribute to headaches, pressure in the head, visual problems, dizziness and balance problems. Physiotherapy treatment can involve manual therapy to reduce neck tension, therapeutic exercises to help stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak ones, posture education to alleviate daily stress on the neck, taping to help maintain proper posture and modalities to reduce muscle tone and alleviate pain.
Vision Problems: The initial trauma can also cause dysfunction in vision. Common symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, sensitivity to light and difficulties interacting with electronic screens like computers or cell phones. Physiotherapy treatment can provide specific exercises to retrain the eye muscles and visual pathways to help correct these problems.
Vestibular/Balance Problems: Balance issues can be seen following a concussion. Our balance system is a coordinated effort between the inner ear, the neck and the eyes. When one or more of these individual systems are not working properly there can be a sensation of dizziness or being off balance. Physiotherapy treatment can work to fine tune these systems to diminish these symptoms and return the patient to their regular function.
Cardiovascular Deconditioning: Fatigue and a diminished tolerance to physical activity can be seen after someone sustains a concussion. Physiotherapy treatment can determine when it’s safe to begin cardiovascular exercise and how to gradually progress the patient back to their regular physical activity routine for work or sport.
Mental Health Side Effects: Research indicates that there is a great risk of depression and anxiety that can follow a concussion. The variety of symptoms that are experienced from a concussion are much different from most bone and joint injuries. People’s level of disability are generally greater and they can experience a greater mental burden with their daily routine. Research has also demonstrated that mental health symptoms can be a significant risk factor for concussion symptoms becoming chronic. Physiotherapy treatment can provide the necessary education to patients about what to expect for their recovery, reassure them about any anxiety they may have regarding their symptoms, monitor mental health symptoms and refer patients for more appropriate treatment if needed.
Overall there are a variety of different areas that can be addressed during concussion rehabilitation. A comprehensive, custom tailored treatment plan can help empower the patient, reduce the overall recovery time, return them to their regular occupational and recreational routine and prevent the symptoms from progressing to a persistent chronic state.