What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happens as a result of the head and brain moving too quickly back and forth. The rapid movement, often caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body, can cause chemical changes in the brain. This makes it more difficult for brain cells to function and communicate.
What Causes a Concussion?
Concussions are caused by a sudden movement like a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. You have likely suffered a concussion if your injury caused you to be:
- Dazed or confused
- Knocked out (lost consciousness)
- Unable to remember what happened for a short time before or after
What are the Symptoms of a Concussion?
Concussion symptoms can be subtle while you may notice some symptoms right after your injury, others might not appear for hours or even days after your injury. Concussion symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems balancing
- Delayed or slowed reaction time
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Blurred vision
- Slow speech
- Sleeping more than usual
- Sleeping less than usual
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Feeling tired, drowsy or having no energy
- Difficulty thinking clearly or “foggy” feeling
- Problems concentrating
- Feeling slowed down
- Issues remembering things (especially new information)
- Trouble expressing thoughts and finding the right words
- Sad, depressed, tearful
- More emotional than normal
- Nervous or anxious
Symptoms can worsen over a short period; it is not uncommon for new symptoms to appear a few days after your injury. Tasks that involve a lot of concentration, like sports, studying, or playing video games, may cause concussion symptoms to appear, reappear, or get worse.
What to do After a Concussion?
For the majority of people, concussion symptoms clear up after 1-2 weeks of rest and gradual reintroduction of activities. It is important not to tax the brain during this time to allow for a full recovery. When concussion symptoms last longer than 1-2 months (or past normal recovery), it is categorized as a post-concussion syndrome or disorder (PCS/PCD). The symptoms of PCS/PCD can last for weeks, months, or a year or more after a concussion.
How do You Treat a Concussion?
Seeking treatment is key to recovery, especially if your symptoms last longer than 10-days. Your physiotherapist will determine what combination of exercises and therapies would be best for your case, however, treatment options that have shown to be beneficial include:
- Retraining the inner ear balance system called the vestibular system
- Exercises that train your visual system
- Manual Therapy on the neck to help with headaches
- Exercises that target deep muscles in the neck
- Cardiovascular exercises
- Education about the return to activity
It is essential that you follow your treating physiotherapist’s instructions on the intensity and duration of home exercises and not try to overshoot treatment goals. Be sure to communicate with your physiotherapist if you notice that exercises are causing you to have any symptoms.
What to Expect at Your First Appointment
At your first appointment you can expect:
Your physiotherapist will sit down with you to take your medical history. They may ask questions about your current condition as well as any symptoms you’re experiencing. After taking your history, your clinician will begin a physical evaluation.
Your physiotherapist will assess your balance, gait when walking, range of motion, heart rate, inner ear, and your vision. In some cases, you may undergo a cardiac stress test on bike or treadmill to get a full assessment of your condition.
Following your assessment, your physiotherapist will discuss the severity of your condition and work with you to develop a treatment plan. Your physiotherapist will explain treatments and answer any questions you might have.
Your physiotherapist can help treat and manage the symptoms of concussion, and in many shortening your recovery time. No referral is required so you can begin treatment today!
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The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) represents physiotherapists, physiotherapist assistants and physiotherapist students across Canada. CPA members are rehabilitation professionals dedicated to the health, mobility and fitness of Canadians.
Physiotherapists are primary health care professionals who combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability.
More than 20,000 registered physiotherapists work in Canada, in private clinics, general and rehabilitation hospitals, community health centres, residential care and assisted-living facilities, home visit agencies, workplaces, and schools.
The CPA presents its educational references as a public service and for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CPA membership.