Post-Concussion Syndrome and Physical Therapy

Feb 6, 2020

Leslie Drawdy

by Leslie Drawdy
PT, DPT | Oro Valley

While many people who suffer from a concussion recover fully without physical therapy treatment, some develop post-concussion syndrome. This is a situation where symptoms from the concussion continue for weeks or months after the injury, and don’t resolve on their own.

Just like a bad ankle sprain, the symptoms from a concussion can last for a long time. I actually like to think of a concussion as a “sprain to the brain”. Post-concussion syndrome symptoms include persistent headaches, dizziness, problems with balance and coordination, difficulty concentrating and/or reading, and fatigue.

How can Physical Therapy help?

Headaches: Often with post-concussion headaches, there is tight muscle tissue and decreased upper neck mobility.  The body will always find ways to try to protect an injured area, and in the case of a concussion it is very common for neck muscles to tighten up.  This can be painful and contribute to persistent headaches and fatigue. Your physical therapist will be able to assess and address these issues with common techniques such as manual therapy and dry needling.

Balance/Dizziness: Physical therapists can thoroughly evaluate balance and dizziness, and determine the appropriate individual treatment needed in order to return to your regular activities, including sports. One common issue that causes dizziness and problems with balance after a concussion is visual tracking difficulty. This has to do with the coordination between the muscles that move the eyes and the head. Visual tracking difficulties also interfere with reading and concentration. Your physical therapist will be able to assess your eye tracking status and address specific difficulties with this in order to restore your ability to move your eyes and head normally to improve your balance.

A Recovery Plan Specific to You:  Your physical therapist will help you develop a plan specific to you, your symptoms, and your lifestyle.

You do need increased rest after a concussion. Again, think of a badly sprained ankle. You definitely would be resting and elevating that ankle, and as you are able to progress your walking, you wouldn’t be surprised that the affected leg might get tired with walking sooner than it did before the injury. In the same way, the brain needs to recover from the concussion, and it takes time to build endurance to get back to the same level as before the injury.

Getting extra rest is helpful in recovery from a concussion, but rest doesn’t always mean sleep. It isn’t always practical to take a nap during the day, but short rest breaks after demanding activities can make a big difference in your recovery.

If you think you are suffering from post-concussion syndrome, fill out a free pain assessment today to get your move back!

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