In my last post I introduced the topic of concussions, and taught you about how they occur and about the signs and symptoms. This week, as I usually do in part two of my blogs, we will dive into how concussions are diagnosed, how physical therapy can help, and what kind of physical therapist you need to seek out.
How Is It Diagnosed?
This is a little bit tricky, because it is so easy to miss a concussion. They are easy to miss because diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or CT scan, usually will come up with normal results.
I know that I said this in the previous post – but due to the variety of possible symptoms that can interfere with day-to-day activity, you need to make sure that you seek coordinated medical care immediately. The health care professionals that you see may include a physician with expertise in concussions, a neuropsychologist, and a physical therapist who specializes in treating balance disorders and dizziness.
One a diagnosis is reached you will be instructed to limit any kind of exertion – which includes work, reading, watching TV or anything that includes brain power. Yes, it sounds extreme – but you need to make sure you give your brain time to heal, and just like with a broken foot…using it will not allow healing to take place.
However, you can slowly resume normal activities only once your symptoms have improved and stay improved. You just need to make sure that the improvement is permanent, not just a couple hours of ‘feeling better’.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Physical therapists can evaluate and treat many problems related to concussions. Although, since no 2 concussions are the same, the physical therapist’s examination is essential to assess your individual symptoms and limitations so that he/she can come up with the correct treatment plan.
Here are two big ways that physical therapy can help if you’ve suffered a concussion:
1. Help stop dizziness and improve your balance. If you have dizziness or difficulty with your balance following a concussion, vestibular physical therapy may help. A PT who is qualified to do vestibular physical therapy can provide specific exercises and training to reduce or stop dizziness and improve balance and stability.
2. Reduce headaches. One thing that your PT will check for following a concussion is neck injuries. Neck injuries can cause headaches and contribute to some forms of dizziness. Working with a PT will help you improve your condition – and as you progress your PT will help you resume physical activity gradually so that you are not at risk of overloading the brain and nervous system that were compromised by concussion.
One things that I will point out is that it’s important for you follow the recommendations of all health care professionals so that you can achieve the greatest amount of recovery in the shortest amount of time. Concussions are serious, so don’t think that you can speed up the process by “going hard” in recovery – the steps are in place for a reason, and that reason is so that you do not cause yourself further injury.
What Kind of Physical Therapist Do I Need?
All physical therapists are prepared through education and experience to treat a variety of conditions or injuries.
However, you may want to consider looking for a PT:
1. Who is experienced in treating people with neurological problems. Some physical therapists have a practice with a neurological or vestibular rehabilitation focus.
2. Who is a board-certified clinical specialist or someone who completed a residency/fellowship in neurologic physical therapy. This kind of therapist has advanced knowledge, experience, and skills that may apply directly apply to helping those with concussions.
So – that concludes my two part series on concussions. If you have any questions I encourage you to leave a comment or give our office a call, we are always happy to help. Our number is at the top of this page, and you can also fill out the contact us form on the site. I hope this has helped increase your knowledge about this serious injury, and that you continue to visit our site for more helpful information.