5 benefits of going to a physical therapist after your concussion

Concussions, a type of mild traumatic brain injury, are a surprisingly common type of injury that can disrupt normal brain function. Approximately 3.8 million concussions happen each year in the United States. They’re often caused by falls, sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents. Most concussions usually resolve within a few weeks. However, some people can experience lingering symptoms, including headaches, dizziness and having a hard time concentrating. When concussion symptoms stick around, it’s known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Fortunately, a beneficial and effective part of concussion recovery can be found in going to physical therapy.

Benefits of going to physical therapy after a concussion 

Physical therapists are movement experts. They’re licensed and highly trained to assess and address a wide range of conditions, including those that can affect the brain. A physical therapist can significantly aid your concussion recovery in the following ways:

  • Managing symptoms — Physical therapists can help alleviate common concussion symptoms like dizziness, vertigo and balance problems. They can instruct you on how to do specialized exercises that help target the inner ear and nervous system. These are part of your vestibular system, which plays a vital role in your balance and spatial awareness. A number of patients with PCS see a reduction in dizziness after vestibular rehabilitation.
  • Reducing pain — Headaches and neck pain can be a common complaint after a concussion. Your physical therapist can use manual therapy techniques like soft tissue manipulation and joint mobilization. These techniques can help ease muscle tension and decrease pain in these areas. 
  • Improving cognitive function — Physical therapy can address cognitive issues that can be associated with PCS, such as memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Exercises that target visual tracking and sensory integration can help retrain your brain. Retraining can help improve your cognitive performance. Physical therapy interventions can help improve cognitive function in people with PCS.
  • Facilitating a gradual return to activity — Your physical therapist can design a customized treatment plan that is a safe and gradual exercise program to help you regain your strength, coordination and endurance. They’ll monitor your progress and adjust your plan to ensure that you don’t overdo it and make your concussion symptoms worse. 
  • Educating and empowering — Your physical therapist can share valuable information to educate you on concussions. This can include symptom management strategies, pacing techniques and lifestyle modifications that can best promote healing. This can empower you to be an active participant in your recovery. 

Physical therapy techniques that can help your concussion recovery

Your physical therapist can use a variety of techniques to help address your specific concussion needs. Common approaches include:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation exercises — These exercises target your inner ear and brain areas that are responsible for your balance and spatial orientation. They may involve head movements, gaze stabilization drills and balance challenges on different surfaces.
  • Cervical spine mobilization — Your physical therapist may use their hands to perform gentle neck stretches and manual manipulations. Gentle joint mobilization and stretches can help improve your neck’s range of motion as well as decrease muscle tension in your cervical spine. This tension can contribute to your headaches and dizziness after your concussion.
  • Cardiovascular exercisesLow-impact exercises like walking or stationary cycling may be gradually introduced. These exercises can help improve blood flow to your brain and promote healing. However, intensity and duration will be carefully monitored so you don’t experience symptom flare-ups.
  • Sensory integration therapy — This therapy helps retrain your brain to process information from a variety of senses, like visual, auditory and vestibular, more effectively. This boosted processing can help improve your coordination and balance. 
  • Balance training — Your physical therapist can help you learn specific balance exercises that can help improve your proprioception. This is your body’s awareness of its position in space. These exercises can help significantly reduce dizziness and falls after a concussion. 

Concussion self-care

While physical therapy plays an important role in your concussion recovery, self-care is also an important part of your recovery. Some strategies you can implement to boost your self-care include:

  • Rest — Physical and mental rest are crucial for concussion recovery. You should avoid excess screen time, strenuous activities, and environments with bright lights or noises during your initial recovery phase.
  • Cognitive pacing — You’ll want to limit mentally demanding activities and break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Take breaks throughout the day to avoid cognitive overload. Being overloaded can make your symptoms worse.
  • Sleep habits — Prioritize good sleep habits. These habits include keeping a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Quality sleep is critical for brain healing.
  • Healthy diet — It’s important to eat a balanced and nutritious diet to provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs for optimal brain function and recovery.
  • Hydration — Staying adequately hydrated is essential for your overall health and brain function. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Stress management — Stress can make concussion symptoms worse. You can help manage your stress by doing relaxation techniques. These could be deep breathing meditation or yoga.

Find post-concussion therapy at Lattimore PT

At Lattimore Physical Therapy, we understand the disruptions and challenges that recovering from a concussion can bring to your life. Our team of experts includes 30 physical therapists with a Certification in Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (COMT). This dedication to enhancing their manual therapy skills is incredibly beneficial for our concussion recovery patients. They can incorporate manual therapy into your personalized treatment plan to help treat any lingering musculoskeletal issues that can accompany concussion recovery. We are dedicated to helping you have an empowered path to recovery to address your symptoms, improve your balance and coordination, and help you gradually and safely return to doing your favorite activities.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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