Concussions – Re-Energizing the Brain
Whether watching the newest Will Smith movie, cheering for your favourite hockey team or keeping up to date on NFL lawsuit news, concussions are gaining increased recognition as an injury which should not be swept under the rug. Concussions are very common, happening to athletes and regular people alike; but, they do not have to be scary! They can be rehabilitated by directly addressing the signs and symptoms, actively modifying factors in the short term, and progressing through a safe return to work or sport.
A concussion, also known as a minor traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is what occurs in the brain when there is a fast ‘back and forth’ movement of the brain within the skull. It can occur without you even hitting your head! This causes not necessarily ‘damage’ to the neurological tissue, but in essence an overload which crashes the computer (your brain). Symptoms are variable, but can manifest often as nausea, neck pain, dizziness, headaches, increased emotions, feelings of fogginess, as well as difficulty concentrating, remembering and sleeping. When it doesn’t have the energy it needs, normally everyday activities like: reading a book, watching TV, chatting with friends, driving a car or going to the supermarket can produce symptoms.
While it will be different for everyone, the majority of concussions will resolve in 30-60 days. In essence, the period of recovery is when your body is re-booting, and re-supplying your brain with the energy it needs to perform its functions properly. In the majority of cases, you will be asked to rest for 2-3 days, and slowly re-start activities of daily living below the level of symptoms. This could include spending less time on the phone, going to the store when it is less busy or taking frequent breaks on long drives. It is VERY important that you do not go back to work or sport too soon, because you can divert much needed energy from regenerating the brain’s energy AND put yourself at risk of much more serious damage if suffering a second concussion when still recovering from the first!
It is important that you see your doctor if you have a concussion. In addition, seeing a physiotherapist can be very helpful – by performing neurological assessments and providing support to help you get back to normal life. Working with a physiotherapist can help determine how much you should be exercising and resting, which activities to avoid, which activities to practice, and how to modulate symptoms. Most importantly, with athletes concerned with making sure they are fully recovered, or regular folks just not quite well enough to get back to work, a physiotherapist can objectively assess when it is safe to return to play or work and how quickly to go back.
While the news and media can make concussions seem scary, they do not need to be. They do not last forever! By proactively modulating what you do, gradually re-integrating your activities of daily living and seeking help/support as needed, there is no doubt that you will get up and running again!
Written by Adam Morrison