Concussion? How do you know?

Concussion? How do you know and what can you do?

You’ve just been in an accident either in your car, at work, or elsewhere; or you hit hard playing sports or hit the ground. If the headache you have is any indication, you’ve definitely sustained some type of injury to your head, but you’re not exactly sure how bad. What should you do? What kind of tests or doctors do you need to see to make the pain stop?

Welcome to the unfortunate reality for many individuals following either motor vehicle accidents, workers compensation injuries, sports injuries or personal injuries. What you may be experiencing is a concussion. The word might sound a bit intimidating but fear not. We, at The Injury Care Center, are here to help. Let’s start with the definition of concussion. According to the CDC, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around in the skull and sometimes stretch and damage brain cells.

Wow, that is a lot to swallow. Let’s break it down a bit…
Now, although the terms “traumatic brain injury” may seem a bit scary, understand that sustaining a concussion is quite common and usually not life threatening. However, we must take this injury seriously as there have been incidences of long lasting effects. Now, let’s let look at what is called the “mechanism of injury” for a concussion. That term refers to how the injury happens. In the definition of concussion, per the CDC, it notes sudden movement caused by either a bump to the head OR blow to the body which subsequently causes chemical damage to the brain. Understanding that there are various ways to sustain a concussion is important for you to know when to seek help. When thinking about whether or not you have a concussion, be aware that the injury does NOT need to come directly from a blow to the head. Our brains are quite sensitive within our skulls. The brain is essentially “floating” in your skull, surrounded by fluid called cerebrospinal fluid. This helps to provide a barrier between the brain and the hard skull. In an accident that causes a concussion, the fluid is not enough protection to prevent the brain from either striking the skull OR twisting or shaking vigorously, creating the same effect. Now that we know the “mechanism of injury”, let’s discuss what happens after we sustain a concussion.

Most often, a concussion will cause effects that last a few weeks, however, there are incidences of symptoms lasting longer. There are several important things to do when sustaining a concussion to assist with recovery. Per the CDC, you start with rest. This is the most important thing that you can do to help your body heal itself. This means you need to modify your activities. Whether you’re in school, at work, or doing activities at home, you must take the time to decrease stresses to your body and brain. This may mean less time on electronic devices, less time watching television, less time exercising, etc. If your symptoms seem to decrease, you may begin to cautiously increase your activity, paying attention to how you feel. If the symptoms seem to progress or get worse, medical care may be warranted.

That’s where The Injury Care Center can come into play and help! Occasionally, symptoms can last for weeks or months. This called post-concussive syndrome. This is a rare condition in those who are experiencing their first concussion, however, if you are someone who has had two or more concussions previously, you may be at greater risk. Now what can be done to help?

There are many exercises that can be done to assist with symptoms usually associated with a concussion. Often times, people may experience neck stiffness or pain, dizziness, loss of balance, and inability to concentrate. In our rehab setting, we will provide all the tools necessary for a full recovery. I will use a real patient example to explain our approach to concussion treatment.

Patient B presented in the office with a history of a fall at work that included post concussive symptoms. He had the following impairments or injuries: neck pain, neck stiffness, headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light, difficulty concentrating. When we started treatment, the patient was provided with moist heat and TENS to his shoulders and surrounding neck muscles to assist with pain relief and flexibility. We then started with a mild stretching program to improve his overall range of motion of his neck. We often did this in a dark setting to alleviate any increased symptoms from the lights in the room. Once the patient showed improvement with the stretching program, we progressed to postural strengthening. This can help to prevent any additional neck pain as well as relieve some headaches that stem from poor posture. The next step for the patient was to address his problems with concentration and balance. We incorporated fine motor tasks as well as various balance activities, including standing on one leg, balancing on various surfaces and performing upper body tasks while balancing. The important thing to remember when transitioning the patient throughout these exercises was to monitor his symptoms and remain in a comfortable zone. We were able to progress back to his original functional level over the course of several months.

In conclusion, remember that if you are injured, we are here to help. We look forward to hearing from you!


Author: Caitlin Shaw, DPT, SCS

The Injury Care Center
901 W. Ashland Avenue
Glenolden, Pa 19036

The Injury Care Center
1502 Upland Street
Chester, Pa 19013

The Injury Care Center
3300 Grant Avenue
Suite #20
Philadelphia, PA 19114