How to treat a concussion
Concussion has been getting a lot of awareness lately and it is wonderful to see evolution in recognition of a concussion and how to manage symptoms. Unfortunately, when I google “concussion treatment” the information that populates first is outdated and indicates that rest and activity avoidance is the recommended treatment. The old theory of sitting in a dark room is largely ineffective and did not promote recovery like active management does. Dr. John Leddy of the University of Buffalo allowed his athletes to return to monitored exercise and his research shows that this return actually improved recovery rather than impeded it. Off of this research many of the knowledgeable concussion practitioners have adapted the way they treat individuals post-concussion and have been able to reduce their incidence of post-concussion syndrome drastically. At the Complete Concussion Management Inc facility in Canada they report only 5% of patients with ongoing concussion symptoms when they are provided with proper care early in the recovery as compared to the estimated 30% of patients who will have ongoing symptoms. This evolution is happening within little pods and information is spreading. My hope is to make the information so widespread that we overpower the outdated information until it is no longer stumbled upon. So here are the most up to date concussion treatment options.
Gradual return to work or school – used for fatigue – Formal rest should be observed for 48 hours after a concussion so taking a weekend off school is appropriate but you don’t want to avoid your regular routine for weeks to months as it can keep you from getting back to your prior tolerance. The golden rule here is to start gradually with half days of school or work followed by a day of rest. The rest day should be used as such so do not fill it with sports, workouts, and chores to the point of fatigue. Once you can perform that increase the time of the school / work days to a full days schedule keeping your rest days between them. As you can tolerate that you want to add half days to replace the full days and then you can return to a full schedule with small rests as needed.
Exercise regularly – Exercise has many health benefits. It can improve cerebral blood flow, mental status, reduce inflammation, and ward off chronic diseases. Light exercise should be started after specific testing to see if it causes an increase of symptoms. Based on the exercise testing results you can use a heart rate monitor to guide how intense the exercise should be.
Adapt your diet – An anti-inflammatory diet can drastically improve how you feel during your concussion recovery. There is research that the blood brain barrier can get damaged allowing certain things to pass into the brain when they previously could not. This leakage or failure to protect the brain can lead to generalized symptoms of dizziness, migraine, headache, etc. The best known way to avoid this process from taking place is to implement an anti-inflammatory diet as to avoid the triggers and autoimmune responses from taking place.
Drink lots of water – Concussion can lead to dysautonomia which is an impaired regulation of your heart beat, breathing, and digestion. This is an automatic process which we cannot always control. A few things that can be helpful are proper hydration, compression stockings, and guided exercise.
Journal your symptoms – While some things that trigger are symptoms are easy to identify others are not so easy to see. Take the example of getting dizzy when getting out of bed, that is something that you would be able to replicate and remember since it happens every time that you do it. Now take caffeine intake and your body might respond differently to the morning cup of coffee than it does a 3rd cup late in the day. Writing down your habits and symptoms can help you see a pattern. This is why every VIZSTIM kit comes with a journal to track 100 days of progress.
Implement a good sleep routine – Sleep pattern can become impaired after a concussion. Some may be overly tired throughout the day but find it difficult to get a restful sleep. Problems with sleep can be broken down to: falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting a restful sleep. A good sleep routine can help. No phones or electronics for 1 hour before bedtime, no phones next to the bed (charge it in another room to prevent reaching for it in the middle of the night), breath practice or yoga prior to sleep, and a dark quiet environment.
Do cognitive work – For those who have difficulty with memory, processing, and reaction time there is cognitive work to be done. The connections and processing speed between neurons can be impaired and this can feel like mental fog, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating. There are a number of brain games that can help this with a phone or tablet. Use luminosity, brainHQ, or cogniFit apps. It is best to implement reasonable timeframes on electronics rather than avoiding them altogether. Use timers or parental controls to ensure that you don’t go over your tolerance.
To get individualized guidance see a healthcare provider with advanced concussion training.