How Does Physical Therapy Help in Concussion Recovery?

Now that it’s July, it’s already time to start gearing up for fall sports like football, soccer, volleyball, and others. Unfortunately, anyone playing these sports, as we all know, is at risk for concussion. Head injuries have received a lot of publicity in recent news — so in this month’s blog, we’d like to answer a few questions about concussions and address how various techniques (particularly vestibular physical therapy) can be helpful in the recovery process.

What is a Concussion?

According to the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. It is usually caused by a blow to the head, or whiplash. In many cases, there are no external signs of head trauma (e.g. bruising). Many people assume that concussions involve a loss of consciousness, but this isn’t true as many concussions are suffered without any loss of consciousness involved.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion?

Symptoms vary from person to person, and not all symptoms need to be present for a concussion to be diagnosed. However, these are the most common symptoms reported in concussion sufferers:

  • Confusion
  • Prolonger headache
  • Vision disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired balance
  • Memory loss
  • Ringing ears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loss of smell or taste

What Should I Do If I Think I Have a Concussion?

If you suspect that you or your child may have a concussion, the first step should be to visit a primary care provider or urgent care facility. At that visit, your healthcare provider will perform an impact test, which will help determine what concussion symptoms are present and how severe they may be. Once assessed, your healthcare provider will offer up a course of treatment, which may involve taking acetaminophen-based painkillers for headaches, plenty of rest, and avoiding any activities (including sports) that may aggravate symptoms.

Can You Get a Concussion From Something Other Than Sports?

Yes — concussions are traumatic brain injuries that can occur any time your head hits a hard surface. Whether it’s hitting your head on the steering wheel or window in a car accident, walking into a wall without looking, or waking quickly from a top bunk and hitting your head on the ceiling, concussions are a real threat.

How Can Physical Therapy Help in Recovering from a Concussion?

Doctors often prescribe physical therapy to aid in recovering from post-concussion syndrome, which occurs when concussion symptoms linger well after the initial trauma takes place. Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include dizziness, difficulty with balance, neck pain and headache, and poor exercise tolerance. To treat any lingering neck pain, soft tissue manipulation and other manual therapies can often provide relief. Dizziness may be treated with a variety of exercises or manual treatment that would also apply to vertigo patients, as well as balance exercises to improve balance. To help with activity tolerance, a progressive aerobic exercise program specific to each patient’s needs is the best course of action.

We can treat all of these symptoms and many more at Red Canyon Physical Therapy — so if you suspect that your or your child may have suffered a concussion, consult your primary care physician, and ask if physical therapy is a good course of action to treat your specific symptoms.