Concussion Physical Therapy Questions and Answers
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Concussions are serious head injuries that can result in severe neurological complications, from chronic headaches to speech problems. In mild cases, concussions typically heal on their own within several weeks. However, in moderate to severe cases, the recovery process can take many months and often requires physical therapy to relearn certain functions. With the proper care, patients can make a promising recovery from a concussion.
Can physical therapy help a concussion?
Yes, physical therapy can help a concussion. Recent research suggests that working with a physical therapist can be beneficial as early as a few days after sustaining a concussion. It is important, especially for athletes, to see a physical therapist within the first week following a concussion because physical therapists are a vital part of the development and administration of a personalized rehabilitation program. In particular, physical therapists are well suited to help patients retain and maintain their physiological conditioning as much as possible during the recovery process following a concussion.
How do you rehab a concussion?
There are several aspects of concussion rehabilitation, including:
- Neck rehabilitation — What affects the head usually also affects the neck, so the first step in recovering from a concussion is improving cervical and thoracic spine mobility.
- Balance/dizziness rehabilitation — One of the main symptoms of a concussion is balance issues and feelings of dizziness, which is why these symptoms are specifically targeted for rehabilitation.
- Eye tracking and early vision rehabilitation — Another essential part of concussion rehabilitation is ameliorating issues with vision, such as the ability to track objects.
- Treadmill test and individualized aerobic exercise program — A specialized treadmill test is used to determine at what exertion level patients can exercise without exacerbating their symptoms.
- Rehab for autonomic nervous system dysfunction — If concussion symptoms are associated with autonomic nervous system dysfunction, an individualized aerobic exercise program (which limits for symptom aggravation) is recommended.
- Reducing the risk of lower extremity injury after concussion — The risk of lower extremity injury even a year after the concussion is markedly higher; working with a physical therapist may reduce this risk.
What happens if you do physical activity with a concussion?
For decades, many doctors advised patients with a concussion to rest completely from both mental and physical activities, until concussion symptoms have subsided. Known as cocooning, this practice could last from a few days to several weeks. Unfortunately, some patients experienced symptoms that lasted much longer, for months or even years. The isolation they endured led to an increase in mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, and because of this, it actually slowed their recovery time. Thanks to recent research, we now know that complete rest lasting longer than 2 days can actually lead to worse outcomes. Even if it takes place on the first or second day, moderate physical activity within the first week of a concussion actually speeds recovery time and lessens the chances of developing further complications, such as post-concussion syndrome. Mild, sensible exercise produces chemicals that the brain needs to begin the healing process, and staying connected to people will help improve mental health and attitude.
In summary, light, non-strenuous physical activity is suggested within a week following a concussion. Intense physical activities should be avoided, but avoiding activities altogether can actually worsen symptoms.
What are the benefits of Physical Therapy for Concussion?
There are many benefits of receiving physical therapy after a concussion, including:
- Individualized Treatment — Physical therapists work on multidisciplinary teams to offer comprehensive concussion care specific to each patients’ needs, providing them exactly what they need.
- Guided Recovery — Physical therapists help patients manage their symptoms and educate them on how to perform proven at-home rehab exercises to help with their concussion recovery.
- Returning to Normal Activity or Sport — Patients who work with physical therapists experience a safe and gradual return to life without overloading the brain and nervous system, allowing them to reintegrate into their normal, everyday lives.
REPAIR Sports Institute specializes in physical therapy for concussions. Call us today to book an appointment, or visit our clinic conveniently located at 7146 Edinger Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92647 . We serve patients from Huntington Beach CA, Seal Beach CA, Newport Beach CA, Costa Mesa CA, Westminster CA, Garden Grove CA, Fountain Valley CA, Long Beach CA, Irvine CA, Santa Ana CA, and Anaheim CA. We look forward to serving you!