What is a Concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the result of the head hitting an object or a moving object hitting the head and can also occur when the head and neck are subjected to violent movements. Depending on the amount and direction of the force, vasculature to the brain may tear and internal bleeding can occur. Also, potentially damaged are the neurons, neuronal centers and glial tissue which support the various brain structures. A concussion is the most common type of TBI.
The resulting damage in function varies across a continuum. No two concussions and the presenting symptoms are alike. To further complicate matters, some symptoms may not show up until later, sometimes a year or more after the injury occurred. Symptoms that appear later or persist after the initial injury are referred to as post concussion syndrome (PCS).
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and concussion can affect multiple components of the craniosacral system including abnormal membranous tensions, compromised bone articulations and sutural immobility. These adversely affect the free flow and stable pressure of cerebrospinal fluid, blood flow, neural conduction and numerous other physiologic functions.
Concussion, TBI and PCS Symptoms
Aside from their duration, the symptoms experienced by individuals with PCS are the same as those experienced in the acute phase of the injury. Symptoms are wide ranging and can affect an individual in a variety of ways and may include:
- Headaches, neck pain as well as other seemingly unrelated pain syndromes and system disorders
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Decreased cognitive function: unable to concentrate or memory loss
- Dizziness, loss of balance
- Disrupted sleep patterns, insomnia or over sleeping
- Vertigo and nausea
- Blurred vision
- Emotional highs and lows; anger and irritability
- Anxiety, depression, apathy and other changes in personality
- Bruising with or without a bump
- Eye tracking and unable to read without difficulty
- Tinnitus – ringing and buzzing in ears
- Understand that your symptoms are part of your brain’s repair process and are normal in your situation
- Seek support from others and engage in positive social interactions
- Avoid bright lights, noisy environments and screens (phones and computers)
- Engage in gentle exercise for example: Chi Kong and Tai Chi
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs
- Eat well: nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains are all nourishing for the brain
- Try not to rush your recovery, your body’s healing process will take time
- Seek complementary therapy like craniosacral therapy
How Craniosacral Therapy Helps Manage Concussion Symptoms
During any traumatic experience our body’s natural intelligence seeks to protect us. This is a function of our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which works for us without need of our conscious thought. In everyday life, when we feel safe, a healthy ANS maintains a balance between the two branches of the ANS: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), in which we have the energy to get things done, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) where we rest and digest. When we experience trauma, our body seeks to protect us by going into fight and flight mode (SNS) and sometimes our ANS gets stuck here.
The concussion sufferer can sometimes become stuck in a feedback loop in which the TBI symptoms make them feel unsafe and sends them back into protection mode (SNS). It is very difficult to heal when our bodies are using our limited resources to defend against a threat that is no longer there rather than using these resources for healing. The parasympathetic nervous system needs to be engaged in order to facilitate healing.
Craniosacral therapy is wonderful at bringing the autonomic nervous system back into balance and thus facilitates healing.
Brain injuries take time to heal, but with the support of craniosacral therapy, symptoms can be reduced and managed, the healing time can be significantly lessened and the road to recovery supported. There is even the possibility that the client will discover a new lease on life. As one of my clients with a traumatic brain injury recently said: “I have a TBI and all the challenges that come with it, but I’ve actually never felt better in my life.”
NB: The sessions I offer are in complementary therapy and are not a substitute for medical care. If you have suffered a TBI, concussion or are experiencing PCS please also contact your medical doctor.
Rhonda Olson is a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (BCST) based in Toronto. You can contact her or book a session here.