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Upper Cervical Treatment for Post Concussion Syndrome

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on Aug 04, 2020

Post Concussion Syndrome Treatment in Brisbane

If you are dealing with post-concussion syndrome, I need to say it clearly for you in the very beginning: 

YOUR BRAIN HAS THE ABILITY TO HEAL.

It is called “plasticity.” Even if you have suffered a certain injury with irreparable damage, your brain has the ability to compensate and make new neural connections in its effort to heal.

The reality as you likely know in starting this article is that healing from post-concussion syndrome is not necessarily a simple feat. It takes time, persistence, and often a multi-disciplinary approach.

In other words, it takes effort and a team of post-concussion specialists and other professionals to help:

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  • Neurologist specialist 
  • Brain rehabilitation therapist (often is a chiropractor or physiotherapist by trade)
  • Upper cervical chiropractic doctor

If you are seeking information on post-concussion syndrome treatment in Brisbane, I hope that this article is the place to start pointing you in the right direction. 

OR if you have already been receiving treatment for post-concussion syndrome but want to know what more you can do (to make sure that you aren’t missing anything), you are in the right place.

I hope you enjoy it and find it valuable.

 

What is Post Concussion Syndrome?

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“Post-concussion syndrome” is the collective name for the many symptoms that occur following a head, neck, or whiplash injury. 

One thing you may not know is that “syndrome” is a medical word that typically refers to a disorder with no apparent cause.

What?! How can post-concussion syndrome have an apparent cause?

Let me explain. In order to make a formal medical diagnosis, there needs to be something that shows up on a proper diagnostic test like a blood test, CT scan, or MRI. However, for many people who experience the problems associated with post-concussion syndrome, their CT and MRI scans appear normal!

It’s always important to rule out bleeding and fractures in head injuries, but if there is no apparent injury, why do you experience the symptoms that you do?

It is because the post-concussion syndrome is a functional disorder.

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Think of it as the difference between a computer with a cracked screen vs a computer with a virus or malware. One of them, you can see what the problem is. The other, you can’t see it directly … but it sure as heck affects the way your computer works!

Post-concussion syndrome is like a computer virus. The result of the injury is not that there is permanent physical damage to your brain, and that is a good thing! However, the result of the injury is that something is affecting the way that your brain is able to work!

When you understand that post-concussion syndrome is actually this type of functional disorder, it points you in the right direction for the types of treatments that may actually be able to help restore your brain function as much as possible.

 

Post Concussion Syndrome Symptoms

You do NOT need to lose consciousness to still suffer a concussion

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Mild traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome can take many forms:

 

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Difficulties with concentration or memory
  • “Brain fog”
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety or depression

 

The potential list is endless because when we talk about mild traumatic brain injury, upper neck injury, whiplash or post-concussion syndrome, we are talking about the system that controls everything in your body.

Therefore, anything is possible!

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Post Concussion Syndrome Depression

Among the more common symptoms of post-concussion syndrome is depression. Why is that?

One hypothesis is known as “dysafferentation.” In brief, nerve receptors in your body continuously provide your brain with information about the state of health in your body. However, if you experience an injury that causes physical damage and produces pain, it can cause these nerve receptors to bombard your brain with noxious input.

When that happens, your brain is not able to process all the information, which negatively affects its function.

Think of it like a computer processing too much information all at once. It is slow and will probably crash.

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Think of it also like when you haven’t slept well and have an exceptionally stressful day. You are a powder keg waiting to ignite simply because your capacity to handle stress is less than it normally is.

When these types of problems manifest in the body, it is not uncommon for a person to feel “flat,” down, or even depressed for seemingly no good reason.

However, for any person who is not right in their body or feeling chronically not well because of an injury, this type of “depression” is common.

In my opinion, it is the person in chronic pain or discomfort who does NOT experience depression who is actually an abnormal person!

Now, what is important to realise that depression associated with the post-concussion syndrome is often the EFFECT and not the true cause of the problem. Thus, if you can identify and correct the CAUSE of the problem, the effect may be able to dissolve on its own too!

Again, this is why it is so terribly important for you to realise that post-concussion syndrome is a functional condition. Yes, you can always mask the symptoms with medication.

However, if you want the best opportunity to truly heal naturally - and without permanent medication or surgery - it is imperative to look for the cause of the problem that persists in your body even though the injury happened so long ago.

 

Post Concussion Syndrome Symptoms Years Later

Many symptoms of post-concussion syndrome take weeks, months or sometimes even years to develop. 

Your body has an amazing ability to compensate for physical stress. Even major injuries like head injuries, whiplash, and post-concussion syndrome. Initially, it may be able to compensate by shifting the tension into your muscles or joints. However, when the “backup system” fatigues, then the symptoms can appear almost out of the blue.

And because you didn’t experience a recent injury, you don’t think to connect your current problems with the injury that you suffered so long ago.

You thought you “got away with it” because you didn’t have problems at the time.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There is always a price to pay, but sometimes the price doesn’t come until later. And then the problem then is that the price comes with interest.

 

  • Neck arthritis
  • Vertigo
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Neuralgia
  • TMJ problems including pain, grinding or clenching

 

Even certain neurodegenerative conditions including multiple sclerosis have been connected with previously untreated whiplash and post-concussion syndrome injuries.

 

How Long does Post Concussion Syndrome last?

There is a general rule of thumb in healthcare known as the “three-day rule.”

Before I proceed, let me say clearly that IF you think you might be experiencing a medical emergency like a heart attack or stroke, don’t delay! Call 000 and act immediately.

Now, if we are talking about something like post-concussion syndrome that isn’t lethal but can certainly make your life miserable, there is a general rule of thumb that IF you experience symptoms, your body should be able to resolve the issue and heal within three days.

(Or as you age, it could be the first number is your age. For example, if you are 60 years old, it may take 6 days for signs of improvement).

If the injury is minor, you may notice 100% improvement in that period of time. If the injury is major (e.g., broken bones), it may take longer. However, there must be clear signs of forwarding progress within three days.

If you do not experience improvement within that period of time - OR if you plateau and do not experience any additional forward progress within that same time - then it is a sign that something is INTERFERING with your body’s normal ability to heal and that you are going to require some additional assistance to figure out what that something is.

Depending on the cause and nature of your post-concussion syndrome, the injury may actually take weeks, months, or even years to heal!

However, using this rule of thumb, I hope that it provides you with some direction about what you can expect to happen to know that your efforts are taking you in the right direction.

 

Can Post Concussion Syndrome become permanent?

Certain types of brain damage may be irreparable. However, do not ever forget that your brain is capable of healing given the right opportunity and time.

So let me ask a question you might have asked yourself?

IF your CT and MRI scans are normal, and IF your specialists expect you to make a recovery, WHY is it that your condition isn’t really improving?

Often, the answer is that there is something interfering with your body’s normal ability to heal itself. In other words, something is getting in the way,

So what could that something be?

When it comes to post-concussion syndrome, there is another very important detail I need to mention:

THE SYMPTOMS OF POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME ARE IDENTICAL TO THE SYMPTOMS OF WHIPLASH.

Whiplash is an injury that causes a sudden snapping of your head or neck. It doesn’t even have to be a major collision or even a car accident!

 

  • Trampoline injuries
  • Roller coasters
  • Football tackles
  • Headbanging (rock/metal concerts)

 

Even a fall on your tailbone from a skateboard or skiing causes a ripple effect that can cause your head to snap back-and-forth, thereby producing a whiplash injury.

If you have been doing all of the proper brain rehabilitation - and especially if your scans have all come back as negative - I want to raise the possibility that some of the problems could well be coming from your neck?

So let me ask you: if you have been experiencing post-concussion syndrome, who has been taking care of your neck?

 

Post Concussion Syndrome and Medical Imaging

It is essential to rule out pathology when dealing with post-concussion syndrome: i.e., no bleeding, fractures, or dislocations in either your head OR neck.

From a medical perspective, this typically involves CT or MRI scans of your skull and brain. Unfortunately, the neck often goes unaddressed!

Even if you have had new scans, many reports still come back as being “normal.” In my experience, however, there are often MANY problems that can be readily seen on head and neck scans that are not considered pathological but certainly aren’t healthy either.

Let me explain. From a medical perspective, there is a “range of normal” before any condition is considered to be pathological. Many radiologists, therefore, don’t remark on anything unless it is pathological. However, just because a condition isn’t pathological and is still considered in the “normal” range doesn’t mean that it is actually healthy.

To illustrate, let’s say that your ideal weight is 70Kg, but that you currently weight 80Kg. Because you aren’t morbidly obese, from a medical perspective, there would be no need for improving your diet or exercise because you are still in the “normal limits.” However, just because you aren’t morbidly obese does not mean that you are as healthy as you could or should be.

When we consider MRI, brain and neck scans, one of the major differences that I consider is not simply signs of pathology, but signs of dysfunction that things are not as they ideally should be … because THAT is how functional conditions work! 

So medical imaging is important: even essential to rule out pathology! However, it is important to realise that there can be far more going on that is often reported.

And often, that simple shift in perspective is the key to finding a long term solution that aids in your recovery from post-concussion syndrome beyond where you currently are.

 

Post Concussion Syndrome Recovery

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned three types of specialists and doctors, who work collaboratively to help people with post-concussion syndrome: neurologists, functional brain rehabilitation therapists and upper cervical chiropractic doctors.

The latter - the relationship between your upper neck and brain function - is the work that we do at Atlas Health.

In this way, we have a specific role in working with people looking to improve their recovery with post-concussion syndrome.

The work that we do is known as Blair upper cervical care,

In brief, Blair upper cervical is a special form of chiropractic developed in the USA that focuses on the unique relationship between head-neck injuries and the role of the C1 and C2 vertebra on brain-body function.

Unlike general manipulation, the procedure is highly detailed using specific neuromuscular analyses, neurological tests, and also advanced imagining that allow us to identify the exact degree and direction of neck injuries beyond what a simple x-ray, CT, or even MRI allow.

With this information, we are able to provide a type of precision care that does NOT involve any twisting or cracking for the purpose of aiding in the normal healing processes of the body. So in this way, upper cervical care is not a treatment for the effects of post-concussion syndrome, but an approach to allow the body to do what it is designed to do: heal itself!

Our practice, Atlas Health, is the premier upper cervical healthcare centre in Brisbane. Our purpose is to help people dealing with chronic health challenges including post-concussion syndrome experience relief and long-term solutions so that they can again enjoy the quality of life that they desire.

If you have been dealing with the challenges of post-concussion syndrome and would like more information, we are happy to offer a 15-minute over the phone consultation with one of our chiropractic doctors to discuss your condition and answer any questions you may have so that you can decide if care might be right for you.

You can go to Contact Us or call us direct at 07 3188 9329.

We appreciate your trust in something so precious as your health, and if there is anything we are able to do to help you, we will endeavour to do out best.

Atlas Health Australia - “Hope, healing, and wellbeing from above-down, inside—out.”

 

References

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Kennedy E, Quinn D, Tumilty S, Chapple CM. Clinical characteristics and outcomes of treatment of the cervical spine in patients with persistent post-concussion symptoms: A retrospective analysis. Musculoskelet Sci Pract. 2017 Jun;29:91-98. doi: 10.1016/j.msksp.2017.03.002. Epub 2017 Mar 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28347935

Leddy JJ, Baker JG, Merchant A, et al. Brain or strain? Symptoms alone do not distinguish physiologic concussion from cervical/vestibular injury. Clin J Sport Med. 2015 May;25(3):237-42. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000128. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25051194

Marshall CM, Vernon H, Leddy JJ, Baldwin BA. The role of the cervical spine in post-concussion syndrome. Phys Sportsmed. 2015 Jul;43(3):274-84. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2015.1064301. Epub 2015 Jul 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26138797 

Zumsteg D, Wennberg R, Gütling E, Hess K. Whiplash and concussion: similar acute changes in middle-latency SEPs. Can J Neurol Sci. 2006 Nov;33(4):379-86. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17168163

Gouttebarge V, Aoki H, Lambert M, et al. A history of concussions is associated with symptoms of common mental disorders in former male professional athletes across a range of sports. Phys Sportsmed. 2017 Sep 13:1-7. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2017.1376572. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28870119

Haavik-Taylor H and Murphy B. The effects of spinal manipulation on central integration of dual somatosensory input observed after motor training: a crossover study. J Manipulative Physiol Therap. 33(4);2010:261-272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534312

Lelic D, Niazi IK, Holt K, et al. Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study. Neural Plast. 2016;2016:3704964. doi:10.1155/2016/3704964. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800094/

Rosa S, Baird JW. The craniocervical junction: observations regarding the relationship between misalignment, obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid flow, cerebellar tonsillar ectopia, and image-guided correction. Smith FW, Dworkin JS (eds): The Craniocervical Syndrome and MRI. Basel, Karger, 2015, pp 48-66 (DOI:10.1159/000365470).

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