Concussions have become a popular topic in the world of neurology because of advancements in technology and research. A lot of this was kickstarted because of unresolved but concerning responses from former professional and collegiate athletes. Although, as many of us know, concussions are not exclusive to athletes and sporting participants. They are an injury that can happen to anyone. In fact, the Journal of Athletic Training published research stating there is an average of 300,000 concussions in high school and college-aged students alone in America every year. However, concussions and other brain injuries often go untreated because patients may not exhibit visible or immediate symptoms or patients underplay their symptoms.
How Does a Concussion Happen?
Concussions are classified as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. However, they are considered a mild presentation of a TBI because they are not life-threatening (they do not typically put your life in immediate peril). That is not to say these injuries do not require special care. Concussions are caused by blunt force to the head or impact on the head/body causing the head to move back and forth quickly; this includes whiplash. So, it is important to pay attention to all activity and behavior after a potentially concussive incident.
Most Common Symptoms
As we mentioned, concussions are often regarded as an invisible injury but that certainly does not mean they need to be overlooked in treatment. There are many ways to discern whether or not you or a loved one have experienced a concussion and should see a doctor for a professional consultation. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Headache or pressure in the head
- Loss of consciousness
- Sensitivity to light
The Mayo Clinic has noted these as typical indicators of concussion but they have also listed several other immediate and delayed symptoms to keep an eye out for. It is important to keep a record of these expressions. That way, if you experience more serious or further symptoms, you can give your care provider a thorough record to receive the appropriate diagnosis and management plan.
Concussion Management: Balancing Rest with Brain Activity
There is still plenty of research being done on how to offer patients better and faster recovery results. For now, though, most patients will either visit the ER or their Primary Care Provider for initial symptom management. Unfortunately these providers are not equipped to help with concussion recovery but either prescribe medications for symptom management or do nothing. The key to recovery is strengthening the parts of the brain injured with the concussion. Unlike strength training where it is good to have pain, it is not good to push through symptoms with concussions. The more you push through symptoms the slower the recovery will be and for some it will completely prevent recovery from occurring at all.
In the digital age we live in, many of us spend our downtime playing with our devices. Whether we realize it or not, these devices do have an impact on our brains. If you notice increased blurry vision, neck pain, dizziness, or headaches while sending a text or email, watching a show or reading a book that is a good sign that you are pushing through your energy limits. After a concussion, genuine rest without screen time is one of the best ways to expedite recovery. Minimizing exposure to light, digital and otherwise, is going to help concussion patients put their best foot forward.
Research has also demonstrated that diet is another important element in recovery for TBIs. While there is no “fix all” food for concussions, eating healthy should be just as much a priority as anything else. In the same way that antioxidant-rich foods are beneficial for memory conditions, fruits and vegetables with antioxidants, protein, Omega-3, and Vitamin E will also help after a concussion. Some of these are:
- Chia seeds
There are a variety of vitamins, minerals, and herbs that can help facilitate recovery. Hydrating with water is also very significant in recovery diets as well.
Because there are only so many hours in a day, we all like to get back into the swing of things. The problem many people encounter after a concussion is that they are actually overworking themselves too early in the recovery process. This, again, is due to the fact that concussions are invisible: because there are not usually visual or physical cues from your body other than headaches or fatigue, we strain our brains too far too soon and often times used Ibuprofen or Tylenol to keep going. While it may be frustrating to take breaks routinely throughout the days and weeks following a concussion, A brief 5 minute break actually provides your brain the intermittent rest it needs to heal properly.
Consulting a provider trained in Functional Neurology who not only understands how to rehab the brain but also the brain immune system is the best way to manage your concussion recovery.