There is a dangerous trend of equating an injury with how visible the problem is. Of course a broken bone or a torn ligament is going to create a scene, but this is not a failsafe way to judge an injury. When an athlete blows out their knee it becomes something that everyone can see, and the pain on the player’s face merely confirms what everyone else is already thinking: that injury is real, that injury is painful, that person is going to need medical attention.
Head injuries are not typically as visible. When you see an athlete hit their head on TV, they may become unconscious for a moment or they may be able to stand up right away. They might look dazed or need a minute to regain their ability to think straight, but then they can walk off the field just fine. The injury does not look as serious. And too often it is not treated as seriously.
A broken bone may be visible, but a concussion is in many ways far more serious of a problem. A brain injury requires immediate and ongoing care to ensure that the brain can regain optimal functionality. On television, injuries that turn out to be “just a concussion” are often anti-climactic events that the audience is led to believe will be over in days, if not hours. In real life, however, these traumatic brain injuries — which usually stem from a fall, severe shaking, a car accident or a direct blow to the head — can severely impact a person’s quality of life for several months.
A cold is typically more obvious than a chronic disease, but that doesn’t make the chronic disease any less difficult to deal with. In fact, chronic disease is typically significantly more serious and complicated than the typical cold. Similarly, concussions are not something that can be overlooked. Following brain injury, whether as a result of a sports incident, a car accident, trip and fall, or other events, concussion therapy is absolutely necessary to ensure that there is no lasting damage following the trauma.
Left untreated, concussions can even inhibit growth in young children, and bring on early dementia for older patients. Fortunately, the physical therapy field is continually discovering new ways to help patients suffering from long-term concussion complications.
Finding Concussion Therapy Post-Trauma
The severity of a traumatic brain injury can vary dramatically. While some concussions are indeed minor, and may not require long-term intervention, other brain injuries can have lifelong consequences.
In the immediate hours and days following a traumatic brain injury, the best treatment option is to take it easy. Resting your brain means really turning off everything that will stimulate your mind and to simply relax. This means avoiding activities like watching television, reading, listening to intense music, and holding an extensive conversation. This may not sound like a very entertaining time, but this is what your brain needs to recover. Just like you would put your feet up for a day or two after injuring your ankle, you need to give your brain time to rest and recover after an injury.
During this time, it is not likely that you will be referred to concussion therapy. Rest is absolutely the best way to cope with the uncomfortable symptoms that happen with a concussion, which include vomiting, confusion, weakness, and headaches. It is important to check in with your doctor for treatment and to have your brain injury assessed, and then to follow post-concussion protocols to give your brain a chance to recover.
After several days, if the symptoms of a brain injury have not subsided, then physical therapy is recommended. Seeking out concussion therapy early on can prevent long-term issues and help you experience a quicker return to normalcy.
Without therapeutic intervention, long-term symptoms can include:
- Chronic headaches
- Changes in weight
- Sleep disorder
- Muscle weakness and spasms
- Decreased libido
- Disrupted menstruation and infertility
The Benefits of Physical Therapy
Concussion therapy is a highly useful tool in supporting recovery from traumatic brain injury. During concussion therapy, you can expect to work with our highly experienced physical therapists who will evaluate the severity of your brain trauma and match you with tricks and strategies that can reduce discomfort, alleviate painful symptoms, and improve brain functionality.
Physical therapy can encourage a holistic return to feeling better by addressing your concussion symptoms, as well as restoring strength to atrophied muscles and improving endurance. This can be achieved through a combination of muscle-training activities and aerobics. Our physical therapists provide guidance regarding the best activities for your body’s needs post-brain injury. Working out alone could lead to further injury. Your physical therapists will customize a program that is best for you.
In addition to physical and occupational therapy, additional strategies like targeted massage, specific stretches, and even eye motion training can help to reduce headaches and nausea following a concussion. Physical therapy programs for concussion often include vestibular therapy, which helps you orient yourself during periods of lightheadedness or loss of balance. This is treated through specialized activities, including fixing your gaze at a certain point in the distance or using simple movements to stabilize your core and limbs. With proper guidance, these strategies can be incredibly helpful in improving the quality of life as you recover from a concussion.
A concussion is not something you can ignore. Regardless of the perceived severity following a brain injury, it is incredibly important that you check in with a physician to ensure that there is no potential for lasting brain damage. If you or a loved one have experienced a concussion, contact a physical therapist at Cypress Physical Therapy to learn more about concussion treatment and therapy options.