The Hidden Dangers of Concussion.
I am a parent of three wonderful children. It has always been my job, as it is any parent, to protect my children from harm or injury. As parents we would never intentionally put our children is danger. Yet, every ride on the school bus, every time playing on the playground or playing sports there is potential for injury. When my son Kevin was only a few months old his older sister lifted him out of his crib when he was crying to try to comfort him. She tripped, he fell and fractured his skull. Thankfully there were no brain bleeds and the emergency team at Beverly hospital was amazing with their care. It was a very traumatic event for all of us, especially our daughter. What was a lump that looked like someone had put half a tennis ball under my sons scalp the night of the injury, was gone the next day. It showed me once again the amazing healing power of the body. While there was no longer any outward sign of injury, with any head trauma is there is injury to the delicate master of all things, the brain. Thankfully that master system is pretty good at putting things back together and rewiring what may have been disrupted.
I start with this because we can’t always protect our children from injury. While keeping them from playing sports may protect them in some way, we are also taking something away. There are whole teams of professionals whose sole purpose is to try to make sports safer and treatment better from traumatic brain injuries. Below are some things that we as parents can do at home to help our kids heal post concussion.
Research is finding that even mild TBI or concussions are being linked to many long-term neurological problems including Alzheimer’s, dementia, psychiatric symptoms like depression, aggression, personality changes, and even hormonal issues, etc. Especially if the patient struggles to return to pre-injury function as quickly as possible.
The hallmark diagnosis for continued symptoms after a head trauma is called Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS). This often goes unrecognized and untreated because it is very vague in nature and PCS symptoms are very nonspecific.
PCS is defined by having at least 3 psychomotor symptoms within four weeks of the head trauma and lasting for 3 months or longer. The generalized symptoms can include: headaches, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, light/noise sensitivity, and poor focus and concentration.
*The vast majority of sports related concussions typically fall on the benign end of mild TBI, and about 90% of diagnosed concussions DO NOT include loss of consciousness.
There is no single explanation as to how symptoms occur in the brain and why recovery can be so unpredictable but it likely involves a wide array of differences in physiology and the pre-existing health of the person. Every case is unique and some people might have better results with certain therapies than others, but no matter the therapy the 5 keys to effective TBI treatment according to Dr. Dan Engle who authors the book The Concussion Repair Manual are the following:
- Nerve Growth and Repair
- Decreasing Inflammation and Oxidation
- Increasing Circulation and Oxygenation
- Removing Scarring, Proteins and Tangles
- Improving Cell Signaling and Function
Concussions from sports, motor vehicle trauma, and falls are among the top reasons for TBI. Most often patients present to our office after their head trauma due to ongoing PCS symptoms and frustrations in finding solutions. Often, they have been to many other providers with no answers, a pocket full of medication, and no real strategy for healing.
The following guideline is a strategy that I have put in practice with patients and have had a great deal of success practicing when they have had any sort of TBI. This is not intended to replace an individual consultation with a licensed healthcare professional. Always consult your doctor or primary provider before incorporating any of the following to your treatment plan.
WHAT TO DO
– First rule out any serious intervention that may be required by visiting a medical professional for a comprehensive neurological evaluation and brain imaging if necessary. This is essential to establish a baseline of any symptoms that may be present.
-Cognitive Rest. Avoid text messaging, video games, limit television and computer use and decrease schoolwork. Avoid activities that require attention or concentration.
-Rest and Sleep. It is imperative to get the required sleep for neurological and hormonal recovery and regeneration that only occurs during sleep. Resting is also important to remove any additional strain to the nervous system. It is recommended to limit any artificial light exposure especially from LED screens on handheld devices, laptops, and televisions, or anything that requires extreme visual concentration.
– Float tank therapy or restricted environment stimulation technique can be soothing and relaxing to the nervous system by restricting stimuli.
-Meditation or nose breathing techniques. I teach something called box-breathing where you sit quiet and breathe through your nose 5 seconds inhale, 5 second hold, 5 second exhale through the mouth, and 5 second hold. Repeat.
– Consume healthy fats from clean fatty fish, coconut oil, whole farm eggs, avocado, walnuts. These foods contain fats that will support repair of brain tissue, remove scarring, and decrease inflammation. Also consuming anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and green tea.
– Keep moving. Low-level non-strenuous movement is necessary to continue supporting blood flow to the brain, lymphatic drainage and positively stimulate the nervous system.
-Self myo-facial release. Gentle myo-facial release can support recovery of tissues in the neck and shoulders and help relieve pain and headaches.
* Get a thorough chiropractic assessment. A skilled chiropractor will be able to diagnose PCS and any evidence of whiplash that might have occurred with head trauma. It is hard to injure the head without effecting the neck. Treating peripheral injuries like the neck help the nervous system to heal, helps the musculoskeletal system, joint function, range of motion, strength and eliminate pain and dysfunction.
WHAT TO TAKE
- Glutathione. This is the major antioxidant in the brain and will assist in repair to the nervous system
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D is neuroprotectant, immune supportive, and anti-inflammatory
- CBD oil. Full spectrum cannabinoids like CBD have been shown to be neuro-protectant and antioxidant
- Methylated B-vitamin. Easily absorbed B12 and others are neuroprotectant, neuro-regenerative, antioxidant.
- Curcumin: Anti-inflammatory, neuro-protectant, promotes plasticity and growth factors
- Fish Oil. High DHA fish oil is important for lowering inflammation, neurological repair, cell signaling
All supplements are hyperlinked to sources that are high quality, trusted, 3rd party tested companies such as Metagenics and Inside out Solutions.
WHAT TO AVOID
- Contact sports or any activities that may cause any risk of reaggravation to the brain.
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates. The inflammatory process in the body is fed by sugar, and refined carbs also cause excitatory reactions in the brain chemistry that can be detrimental to the healing process. Stick to healthy fats, proteins, veggies, nuts, and limit carbohydrate choices to fruits and starches.
- Stress (mental/emotional). Excess stress is never a good thing, but especially when the central nervous system is in recovery. The threshold for irritability, mood changes, and upset is much lower and will slow down recovery. Keep calm and avoid situations where extra stress is being added.
- Excess NSAID, opioid, or long-term SSRI use. While at first some pain medication may be needed, long-term use must be avoided at all costs. Opioids are addictive and dangerous, and NSAID meds can damage liver/kidney/gut health.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to educate yourself about advancements in this field because head traumas are on the rise and so are all the problems due to the mis-handling of these patients’ cases.
If you or a loved one is suffering from PCS don’t hesitate to call our office at 978-927-8466 and mention that you read this blog and that you would like an evaluation. By doing this we will honor a discount of $47 for your evaluation and report (value $240).
-Kevin M. Greene, DC, CCST