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Why Concussions Are Tricky

What is a concussion:

A concussion is a type of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that can be caused by a blow to the head or any rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head like whiplash; a concussion does not require that you hit your head. Our current understanding of the mechanism of acquiring a concussion is that there are shearing forces exerted on the brain with sudden abrupt movements of the head. These shearing forces lead to impairments in neurophysiology that manifest as headaches, nausea, dizziness, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, difficulty with coordination and balance, visual changes and potentially pain in any area of the body. I have had many people ask me, “Is it possible that I’ve had a concussion?” My answer is, “If you hit your head or had any sort of incident where your body was suddenly jarred and things just didn’t seem right afterward, you’ve probably had a concussion.”

Why is it hard to recover:

There are several reasons but the big one is that there is no specific test for a concussion. If one is suspected you will get a CT scan to rule out any type of lesion to the brain. If there is no lesion, you may be diagnosed with Post-Concussive Syndrome. If you are continuing to experience symptoms after a couple of days you may or may not be referred to rehab services. It is very important to see someone who specializes in concussions if you think you may have a concussion!

I’ve seen the symptoms last weeks, months, years and even decades because people think they just have to deal with it. The truth is, you don’t have to just deal with it but there is no “one size fits all” type of treatment. Everyone who has had a concussion will have a different experience because all of our nervous systems are different. When it comes to concussion recovery, it is of the utmost importance that the treating provider be able to assess your individual nervous system and the effects this injury has had on it. However, oftentimes the standard treatment is manual therapy to the neck, treatment of the vestibular system, balance activities and graded cardiovascular training. If those things don’t work, people often believe they just have to deal with it. But they don’t! Answers can just be hard to comeby.

How I can help:

At Step Forward Wellness concussion treatment looks a little bit different. The standard treatment listed above is valuable and necessary but doesn’t always cut it. What makes our treatment different is the individualized approach with an emphasis on assessing the individual’s nervous system and the story of how it came to be that way.

Two people will have different reactions to the same injury because of their history with trauma. Trauma, whether physical or emotional, will cause us to have an increase in our sympathetic nervous system tone (fight or flight response). The more frequently a person has experienced trauma, the more difficult it will be to recover from a concussion because their nervous system has had more opportunities to learn to stay in fight or flight mode. This means that if you’ve had a lot of physical injuries, traumatic events or a rough childhood, you might have a hard time getting better from your concussion.

The approach used at Step Forward Wellness is to begin by calming the nervous system and teaching you to calm yourself. We have to retrain the nervous system to get out of fight or flight mode so that we can retrain the vestibular system, the muscular guarding patterns and the cardiovascular system so that you can return to the life you once knew!

For more information on how to take the next step please visit

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