To say that most people are unaware of the role physiotherapy plays in concussion management would be an understatement. I often receive confused looks when concussion patients step into my office, wondering how physio is going to somehow physically or magically whisk their concussion symptoms away. The good news is physiotherapy really can help get your head right after a concussion.
Following concussion, patients typically experience common symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, loss of balance, visual irritations, and fatigue. What many people don’t realize is that concussion can cause temporary impairment of various systems within our bodies. By doing a thorough physiotherapy assessment, we can determine which systems may be impaired and create a plan to get it back on track.
A concussion most often affects the vestibular system, the autonomic nervous system, and the musculoskeletal system. Here’s a breakdown of what each system does and how physio can help!
The vestibular system is responsible for keeping us level and balanced, assisting with our perception of where we are in our physical space. If there is some impairment to the vestibular system, patients may report dizziness, feeling unbalanced, or having difficulties with crowds or busy spaces. With early education, substitution, and progressive retraining, we can help the system get back online and assist patients with regaining their balance and coordination.
Autonomic Nervous System
Our autonomic nervous system helps to regulate key functions like our heart rate and blood pressure. When this system is askew, patients will start to get symptoms when their heart rate elevates from exercise or exertion. By setting patients up with graduated exercise programs, we can help to regulate the system and get people back to being active.
The musculoskeletal system is the bread and butter of the physio world, as it includes our bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Symptoms of headache, and even some dizziness, often can come from joint and muscle problems in the neck. By assessing posture, strength, muscle tension/tone, and joint movement, physiotherapists can help with exercises, manual therapy techniques, and postural strategies that can minimize symptoms and restore function.
In addition to working on the above systems, physiotherapists can be a great resource to help you through your concussion rehabilitation process. By providing education about active rest and recovery in the early stages, as well as information and strategies on energy conservation, pacing, and activity modification, physiotherapy can help you get your symptoms under control quicker so that you can return to the things you want to do.