Concussion Symptoms and Treatments

It is a common misconception that you need to have direct trauma to the head to sustain a concussion.  You can, in fact, have a concussion without hitting the head.  A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that results from any biomechanichal force to the head, including direct blunt force, falls or car accidents where the head is bounced back and forth, or during hits in contact sports.  These forces cause the brain to shift in the skull which in turn leads to chemical changes in brain cells, stretching of the nerves, blood vessels leaking and bruising (none of which are shown on imaging).   These changes are responsible for the symptoms associated with a concussion.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms can take hours or days to peak.  You should check for signs of concussion right after the injury and continue to monitor for a few days after the incident.  Sometimes individuals don’t notice their dysfunction until they resume their normal activities and routines.  Symptoms after a concussion can include:

  • Confusion
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • imbalance
  • headache
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sensitivity to noise or light
  • irritability
  • more emotional
  • fatigue
  • sleeping disturbances. 

Danger Signs in Adults

According the CDC, in rare cases, a dangerous blood clot that crowds the brain against the skull can develop. The people checking on you should take you to an emergency department right away if you have:

  • Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
  • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination.
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Look very drowsy or cannot wake up.
  • Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
  • Have convulsions or seizures.
  • Cannot recognize people or places.
  • Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.
  • Have unusual behavior.
  • Lose consciousness.

Physical Therapy for Concussion

Many concussion symptoms can spontaneously resolve after 7-10 days.  If symptoms do persist, physical therapy for concussion symptoms plays an important role in interdisciplinary care.  Because symptoms very between individuals, there is no “one size fits all treatment”.  Therapy focuses on reducing symptoms and determining the root cause of those symptoms.  For example, blurred vision can be caused by oculomotor changes that result in abnormal eye movements during daily activities.  Our therapists have advanced training and knowledge to be able to examine such eye movements using specialized equipment, and develop treatment plans that can address dysfunction and get you back to your prior level of function.  A thorough examination of the neck needs to be performed because the same forces that are responsible for concussion symptoms can also cause dysfunction in the cervical spine.  Dysfunction in the neck can also be responsible for headaches, dizziness and pain. 

If you think that you have symptoms of a concussion, a physical therapist is able to assess and treat your symptoms (and make appropriate referrals if needed) , to get you back to you doing the things that are important to you!  Call us today to schedule an evaluation or to see if physical therapy after a concussion is appropriate for you.   

Dr. Rachel Long, PT, DPT

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