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How Can Physical Therapy Help After Concussion?

With summer fun sports and activities also comes the increased risk of suffering a head injury such as a concussion. For most people who experience a concussion, the symptoms resolve on their own. But for some, symptoms can persist for weeks. Thankfully, physical therapy can be used to treat all post-concussion symptoms.  

In the blog post below, Nicole Olenchek, PT, of Orthoapedic Hospital of Wisconsin Shorewood Physical Therapy, discusses concussion symptoms and treatment, and how physical therapy can help with the recovery from elongated concussion symptoms.  

What is a Concussion?

Your brain has the consistency of gelatin and is cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. A concussion is an injury to the brain that usually occurs from a direct blow to the head, sudden impact, or violent shaking of the body that jostles the brain back and forth. Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not. The most common mechanisms of injury are car accidents, falls, and sports injuries. It is reported that 1.6-3.8 million concussions occur annually in the US. 

Symptoms of a Concussion  

Symptoms of a concussion can be mild and not show up immediately or be more severe. If you or your child experience a head injury, you should see a physician for evaluation. In most concussions, the symptoms resolve within two weeks. However, persistent post-concussive symptoms occur when symptoms last longer than expected, which is more than three weeks. Elongated symptoms are reported in 15-20% of concussions. In this case, physical therapy can help with concussion symptoms.   

 Symptoms include:   

  • Headache  
  • Nausea / Vomiting  
  • Dizziness  
  • Neck Pain  
  • Mental Fogginess / Confusion  
  • Sleep Disturbances  
  • Visual Disturbances: Blurry Vision, Seeing Stars  
  • Irritability  
  • Decreased Memory   
  • Sensitivity to Light and Noise  


Relative Rest  

In the first few days following a concussion, your doctor will recommend that you physically and mentally rest. Relative rest limits activities that require thinking and mental concentration. Avoid physical activities that increase symptoms, such as general exertion or sports. If a concussion is suspected, an athlete should never return to a game.  

Gradual Return to Routine Activity 

As your symptoms improve, you can gradually add more activities to your daily routine, such as adding back in school and work assignments, time spent at school or work, and light physical activity. Once all signs and symptoms of concussion have resolved, your doctor will help with the steps of a gradual return to sports. Going back to athletics too early increases the risk of another brain injury.  

Concussions and Physical Therapy

If your symptoms persist beyond three weeks, that is considered post-concussive syndrome, and physical therapy can help. At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, physical therapists will evaluate your continued symptoms and determine a custom treatment plan tailored for you.   

Physical Therapy Treatment May Include:  

  • Cervical Spine Manual and Exercise Therapy  
  • Vestibular / Oculomotor Therapy  
  • Balance Training  
  • Visual Training  
  • Prescription of Exercise and Gradual Progression of Activity   
  • Collaboration with You Doctor, Coaches, and Trainers to Set a Specific Return to Sport Plan  

If you have prolonged symptoms of a concussion, the team at Orthopedic Hospital of Wisconsin is here to assist. Physical therapists at each physical therapy clinic location are trained in evaluating and treating patients with concussions. To make an appointment with a physical therapist, go online or call 414-961-6800. 

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