Concussion Therapy Overview

A concussion is a very commonly misdiagnosed problem that involves, but is not limited to, sports, a fall from any height, and motor vehicle accidents.

Although most frequently associated with a blow to the head, your skull does not need to have an impact on a surface for you to get a concussion. The condition simply requires a sudden change of direction of your head, for example, a very intense whiplash.

A concussion is essentially a bruise on your brain. The symptoms present in a variety of ways depending on the person, but typically include dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, fatigue, or sensitivity to light, sound, smells, and stress.

Recovery can range anywhere from a few weeks up to a year or longer due to the complexity of the specific concussion.

A physiotherapist can help assess and treat your concussion symptoms by educating you about management and gentle exercises.

Man holding his head with visible goose egg - suspected concussion

Do You Have a Concussion?

What are the most common causes of concussion?

The most common causes of concussions arise from either sports-related injuries or motor vehicle accidents. Concussions can, however, result from a fall of any height or even from a blast injury due to explosives.

What do concussions feel like?

Concussions will feel different to each person depending on the severity of it but most people attribute concussions to feeling as if they are dizzy, disoriented, sluggish, and sensitive to things they would otherwise not be such as light, and noise. An increase in headaches is also very common in people with concussions, and someone with a mild concussion might only experience a headache whereas someone with a severe concussion may experience vomiting or ringing in their ears.  

What you should  do immediately if you think you have a concussion

Although often misdiagnosed, a concussion can be noticed if you are experiencing symptoms that align with those of a concussion.  Typically, you need to be assessed by a primary care physician or a sports-med doctor. They will be able to conduct tests to determine if you have experienced a concussion and the severity of the concussion. 

After you are assessed you will need to rest – this means both physically and mentally. General advice from the Canadian Concussion Legacy Foundation suggests that if the activity increases your symptoms, don’t do it. This includes refraining from participating in strenuous exercise and avoiding excessive screen time. Depending on the severity of the injury and your symptoms, it might be appropriate to take time off work or school – again it is important to speak to your physician or other health care provider.

Symptoms of a Concussion

The signs and symptoms of a concussion are incredibly important because a concussion does not always show up on medical imaging such as an X-ray, CT, or MRI scan. Concussion signs and symptoms are the brain’s way of showing it is injured and not functioning properly. Observing these signs and symptoms is what will lead to a proper diagnosis.

Some symptoms of concussions include but are not limited to:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Balance problems/dizziness
  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Fatigue or drowsiness

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Confusion, or poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty multitasking/completing mental tasks

Note: headaches and dizziness are the most common symptoms experienced by someone with a diagnosed concussion

How long do concussions last?

Concussions can last anywhere from a few weeks up to a year or longer due to the complexity of the specific concussion. It will also depend on if the person is seeking treatment or not for the concussion. 

Concussion - woman holding head

How Does Concussion Therapy Work?

While physiotherapists are best known for their work on the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments that make up our body and create movement), many physios have extensive experience with concussion therapy.

The concussion therapy would include decreasing symptoms of dizziness, improving visual tracking and focus, and helping with mental fatigue.

Additionally, postural control is an important part of concussion management which can be easily addressed by your physiotherapist.

You will also need a plan to return to your daily activity, and a physiotherapist can help you do so in a safe and realistic way.

How Successful is Concussion Therapy?

Concussion therapy is very successful, and the earlier it is detected and diagnosed the better your outcome is for decreasing symptoms faster. Recovery can range anywhere from a few weeks up to a year or longer due to the complexity and severity of the specific concussion. Approximately 80% of concussions receiving treatment resolve over a period of 7 – 14 days, with the average being 10 days.

Are there potential side-effects from treatment?

Concussion is still a new area where lots of research is being done. One main reason the field of concussion treatment is progressing slowly is that there is still very limited understanding of how even a normal brain works.

While there is a small chance that treatment may increase the symptoms in concussion in the short term, the physiotherapist takes care to learn each patient’s tolerance and will adjust treatment to work within the patient’s comfort level.

Post Concussion Syndrome

Post concussion syndrome, also referred to as persistent post-concussive symptoms, occurs when symptoms of a concussion last longer than the expected recovery period after the initial injury. In these cases where symptoms last longer than 1 – 3 months, doctors may diagnose post concussion syndrome.

Normally, symptoms occur within the first 7 – 10 days and can go away within 1 – 3 months. In more severe cases, symptoms can last as long as a year.

Getting Started

We have two physiotherapists here who are trained in concussion therapy, one of them utilizes online Telehealth appointments only, which could be beneficial for someone who does not want to leave their house (ex: too dizzy to drive, sunlight affects them etc).

There are no special requirements for receiving concussion therapy, if you feel you have received a concussion and are experiencing symptoms associated with a concussion you can book in for an initial assessment. In the initial assessment, you will be assessed by a physiotherapist who can confirm and diagnose you with having a concussion. 

Next Steps

If you have questions about whether this treatment is right for you please give us a call (604) 474-1276

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