Concussion Part 3: Treatment Overview

Concussions can cause long lasting symptoms that have major side-effects for those that have suffered from them. Various treatments for concussions are beginning to take shape, but due to the variable nature of symptoms and gaps in the knowledge of concussions, there are no known cures for all concussion-related side-effects. However, through chiropractic adjusting, targeted exercises, and various nutritional supplements, post-concussive symptoms may be resolved quicker and with reduced chances for long term side-effects.

Chiropractic adjustments can help in the immediate aftermath of concussion due to a couple different factors. With most concussions there is an effect on the cervical spine due to the force on the head that causes many concussions. Most of the time, this is similar to a whiplash injury in a car accident. The whiplash motion causes a sprain/strain in the muscles and ligaments of the neck, especially in the upper region towards the base of the skull. Injuries to this area can cause headaches and at times dizziness. It is imperative to have these issues addressed and to begin the healing process as soon as possible so that going forward the physician is able to differentiate between symptoms that may be caused by the concussion and symptoms caused from the neck injury. Chiropractic adjustments also help after a concussion because there is a connection between the muscles that connect the first two vertebrae and the skull with a tissue called dura mater that surrounds the brain. When these muscles tighten after a whiplash injury, the muscle-dural connection can cause symptoms similar to a concussion.

Targeted exercises can begin to speed up the healing process by retraining the brain similar to how you would retrain your hamstring to function after a muscle tear. Two of the most important areas to retrain include your balance and regaining the ability to stabilize your gaze when focusing on an object. The first step in retraining your balance is to make sure that you can properly activate your core. This is done with one simple step, by standing and attempting to contract your abdominal muscles without hollowing your stomach. After achieving this seemingly simple yet very important task, balance can be improved with many different exercises. Most of the time a progression is used from the beginning of simply standing on both feet flat on the ground with your eyes open to getting more advanced with standing on one foot on an uneven surface with your eyes closed. A study performed in 2015 showed that post-concussion patients that performed 8 weeks of balance training showed structural changes in the areas of the brain that control balance and posture. Training gaze stabilization is the next step and can be done with a few easy exercises. They include actions such as holding your finger still at arm’s length in front you and moving your head in various directions while focusing your eyes on the tip of your finger. Varying the speed of head movement will increase the difficulty to further the gaze training. Towards the end of rehab, combining the gaze stabilization and balance exercises will be one of the final steps.

Nutrition is an overlooked aspect of almost all rehabilitation programs, but it can be a major difference maker in the speed and success of the program. There are numerous supplements that have shown to help post-concussion in early studies. The most highly studied supplement and one that has shown the most effectiveness is omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil).  Studies have shown taking between 4-6 grams a day can help lessen the symptoms and improve the quality of brain repair. Quality of repair can be an important aspect in helping to prevent tau protein build-up, which is the main culprit in degenerative brain diseases like CTE and Alzheimer’s disease. Anti-inflammatory nutrients such as turmeric and Vitamin D can help limit the inflammation in the brain and allow healing to take place. A quality probiotic is the final piece to the post-concussion program due to the effect a concussion can have on the patient’s gut health. Gut health post-concussion is often overlooked. Many don’t associate a head injury with their gut, but there is a clear association. For example, there are many post-concussion patients that have nausea and vomiting as a symptom, exhibiting a relationship between the brain and gut. Fish oil, vitamin D, turmeric, and probiotics are not the only supplements to consider post-concussion, but they are the most important to associate.

This blog is a brief overview of what varying treatments may contribute to post-concussion recovery. In order to implement these suggestions into your post-concussion rehab, contact Eldora Family Chiropractic for individualized examination and integration of specific treatment protocols to best help you or your child.

In good health,

Zak Stoulil, DC, CCSP