Concussion Treatment In Physiotherapy
Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury. Whether it occurs during sports activities, falls, or accidents, a concussion can have a significant impact on a patient’s physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Treatment for concussion in adults is prescribed on a case by case basis, however the role of physiotherapy in concussion management has emerged as an essential aspect of the recovery process, offering specialized techniques to address the multifaceted nature of concussions.
Tailored physiotherapy exercises and treatments can help reduce symptoms and restore strength, balance, and cognitive function. Physiotherapists are also essential in helping patients get back to physical activity and for preventing long-term complications. Revive Spine And Sport Physiotherapy offers concussion treatment for patients in Edmonton.
A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury that results from vigorous contact to the head or body, causing the brain to move rapidly within the skull. This sudden movement can lead to a cascade of functional disturbances to the brain.
Common symptoms of a concussion include headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, memory problems, sensitivity to light and noise, and changes in mood and sleep patterns. In some cases, symptoms may be apparent immediately after the injury, while in others, symptoms may manifest hours or days later. Recognising the symptoms of a concussion, and treating any blow or jolt to the head suspiciously, is critical for fast treatment and optimising outcomes.
How Treatment For Concussion Works
Treatment for concussion is very dependent on the patient and their head injury. In all cases, treatment involves a carefully structured approach to promote recovery and minimize potential complications. The approach focuses on both physical and cognitive rest, symptom management, and gradual return to normal activities.
From initial rest and symptom management to targeted interventions like physiotherapy and cognitive rehabilitation, there are a few key components that contribute to the effective management of concussions. The following steps outline the typical management of a concussion:
Individualized Treatment Plans
Every concussion is unique, and the recovery process can vary significantly from person to person. Tailoring treatment based on the patient's specific impairments, symptoms, and recovery trajectory is crucial to optimizing outcomes.
After sustaining a concussion, it's essential to rest and avoid physical and cognitive activities that could exacerbate symptoms. This includes removing the patient from the activity immediately, and refraining from sports, screen time, and mentally demanding tasks in the recovery period. As a result, concussion treatment at home is an essential part of recovery.
Seeking medical attention promptly is critical to assess the severity of the concussion and rule out any other serious head injuries, which may include imaging such as MRI or CT scans. A healthcare professional will conduct a thorough examination and provide appropriate advice on further management. This assessment from the medical team is essential for a proper diagnosis.
Address individual symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, and sleep disturbances through medication or other symptom-specific interventions. This may also include referrals to specialised fields such as psychiatry or physiotherapy.
Gradual Reintroduction Of Activity
Once symptoms start to improve, a stepwise plan can be implemented to gradually reintroduce physical and cognitive activities. The plan should be tailored to each patient's specific needs and monitored closely. Only after complete resolution of symptoms and clearance from a medical professional should the individual return to full physical and cognitive activities, including sports and work.
For those experiencing cognitive difficulties, cognitive therapy or rehabilitation can help improve memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Cognitive rehabilitation is a specialized treatment approach designed to address the cognitive difficulties that can arise following a concussion or traumatic brain injury. These cognitive difficulties may manifest as problems with memory, attention, concentration, problem-solving, and executive functions.
The goal of cognitive rehabilitation is to promote functional recovery and enhance the individual's ability to perform everyday tasks and engage in meaningful activities. This form of therapy is typically delivered by a licensed healthcare professional with expertise in cognitive rehabilitation, such as a neuropsychologist or occupational therapist.
Regular follow ups with healthcare professionals is a key part of treatment to monitor progress and ensure that recovery is on track. This is crucial to ensure the individual's recovery is progressing as expected and to identify any potential setbacks or complications. These assessments involve regular check-ins with physicians, neurologists, or physiotherapists.
A Multi-Disciplinary Approach
Collaboration between physiotherapists, doctors, and other healthcare professionals is essential in developing comprehensive and coordinated care for individuals with concussions. A multi-disciplinary approach allows for a holistic assessment of the patient's condition and ensures that all aspects of their recovery are addressed.
Mild Versus Major Concussions
Mild concussion treatment and major concussion treatments require different approaches. For minor concussion treatment, which involve mild symptoms and brief loss of consciousness, rest and symptom management are typically sufficient. Patients should avoid physically and mentally demanding activities until symptoms resolve at the direction of their doctor.
However, major concussions, involving severe symptoms, prolonged loss of consciousness, or other concerning signs, require more extensive medical evaluation and monitoring. Treatment may include hospitalization, specialized imaging, and close observation. Cognitive and physical rest are also crucial, followed by a carefully guided rehabilitation program to address any lingering effects and facilitate a safe return to normal activities. Physiotherapists are often involved in the treatment of both minor and major concussions.
The Role Of Physiotherapy In Concussion Treatment
Physiotherapists are ideally positioned to address the physical and cognitive symptoms that may have resulted from the concussion. Physiotherapists have also recognized the role in treating the cervical spine (in the neck) in concussion recovery.
Physiotherapy treatments for a concussion may include specific exercises that can be used to address the patient's individual symptoms. For example, vestibular and balance exercises are commonly employed to improve stability and reduce dizziness, while ocular-motor training helps enhance visual tracking and coordination. Additionally, cervical spine rehabilitation aims to alleviate neck pain and associated symptoms, as the neck's muscles and structures can also be affected by a concussion.
Physiotherapy can be beneficial for managing migraines and headaches after a concussion. Concussion headache treatment may include massage or specific exercises tailored to alleviating pain and muscle tension. Additionally, physiotherapists may also use manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations and soft tissue manipulation, to address musculoskeletal stiffness that often accompanies concussions. This form of rehabilitation not only helps alleviate these symptoms but may also contribute to overall symptom reduction and improved functional outcomes.
For athletes recovering from concussions, safe return-to-sport protocols are critically important to prevent reinjury and long-term consequences. Physiotherapists play a central role in guiding athletes through these protocols, monitoring their progress, and assessing their readiness to resume physical activity safely.
Return-to-sport protocols typically involve a stepwise approach, starting with light aerobic activity and gradually increasing the intensity and complexity of exercises over time. Throughout this process, physiotherapists closely monitor the athlete's symptoms and functional abilities, adjusting the plan as needed to promote a successful return to sports.
Additionally, integrating mindfulness practices and mental health support into concussion treatment has shown promise in addressing psychological and emotional aspects of recovery. Concussions can be emotionally challenging, leading to anxiety, depression, and frustration. By providing patients with coping strategies and emotional support within their scope of practice, physiotherapists contribute to a more holistic approach to concussion management.
The Challenges Of Concussion Management
Despite the advancements in concussion treatment, managing concussions remains challenging due to the complex and diverse nature of traumatic brain injuries. Each individual may present with unique symptoms and recovery trajectories. This can make it difficult to establish a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, misconceptions, poor initial treatment and myths about concussion recovery persist, leading to delayed treatment and potential complications.
Identifying cases of persistent symptoms and post-concussion syndrome is another challenge in concussion management. Some individuals may experience prolonged symptoms that extend beyond the expected recovery period, impacting their daily lives and functionality. Recognizing these cases requires a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms and targeted treatment strategies.
Prevention And Education
While advancements in concussion treatment are significant, efforts to prevent concussions in the first place remain paramount. Education and awareness about concussion risks are essential for athletes, coaches, parents, and healthcare providers alike.
Athletes should be educated on recognizing the signs and symptoms of concussions and encouraged to report any potential head injuries promptly. Coaches and trainers must be well-informed about proper techniques and safety measures to minimize the risk of concussions during sports activities.
Moreover, healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, play a crucial role in concussion education. They can provide guidance on injury prevention strategies and create comprehensive return-to-sport plans to reduce the likelihood of re-injury.
Physiotherapy In Concussion Treatment
Physiotherapy can make a positive impact on the lives of patients recovering from concussions. Through tailored exercises and specific treatments, physiotherapists can help reduce symptoms, improve balance, and promote a safe recovery. Gradual reintroduction of activities can also help ensure a smooth return to daily life and sports while preventing further complications.
Physiopedia. Assessment and Management of Concussion. Available from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Assessment_and_Management_of_Concussion
Better Health. Head Injuries And Concussion. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/head-injuries-and-concussion
Health Direct. Concussion. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/concussion