Part 2: What You Need to Know About Concussions, Prevention, and Treatment
By Dr. Molly Casey
Life and activity comes with risk. In the same way that a pulled muscle could result from an active lifestyle, so can a concussion result from the perils of daily life. A misstep here, a tumble there, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so it’s important to know what concussions are, how to prevent them, and how to treat them.
It’s also imperative to understand these traumatic brain injuries and the symptoms that present, which are explained in the first of this two-part series.
So let’s look at the best way to treat concussions -- by avoiding them altogether.
The best thing one can do to prevent concussions is to take proper precautions. This may sound logical, but few realize the importance of small behaviors that really matter. In regard to daily life, wearing one’s seat belt is imperative while in the car. Although it may not cut out whiplash injuries or the hitting of the head in an accident, it certainly can decrease the frequency and intensity.
Paying attention while walking is a way to help prevent falls. You may laugh, but in this day and age, people are so very “not present” while doing routine things; they don’t realize how dangerous their inattentive behavior is.. For instance, texting or talking on the phone while walking. I have seen many people trip or nearly walk in front of a bike or car because their attention is on their phone and not focused on walking. This can easily translate into a fall in which you hit your head. I have seen these people as patients, too.
It’s also imperative to wear proper safety gear. If skating or skiing, wear helmets. If playing a contact sport, make sure your upper body has the proper protective gear and, most notably, a mouth guard. Most people think mouthguards are for teeth and jaw protection; that’s true, but its more important protective role is safeguarding the brain. Research shows that properly fitted mouthguards can help reduce the force on the skull and brain during a collision; a properly fitted and worn mouthguard pulls the mandible (jaw bone) forward, thus creating space between the mandible and skull bones. The theory is that this space makes it more difficult for the force to travel, or radiate, straight to the skull, which decreases the severity or effects of a concussion.
First things first: if there is a significant trauma, such as car accident or hit during a sport where a loss of consciousness occurs, one should see a doctor immediately, even if that means going to the emergency room. Second, note that concussion signs and symptoms can be tricky because they aren’t always clear cut, and some are personality- or affect-dependent. That means it can leave others wondering, “Is there any issue here? Is there no issue?” I can definitively say that it is always better to be safe than sorry; if you’re unsure, call your general practitioner and get checked out, or go to urgent care or an emergency room.
It’s also important to know that it’s easier for observers, such as family members, roommates, or people you interact with daily, to tell differences or spot signs and symptoms.
Seek immediate care if there are these symptoms.
- Loss of consciousness
- Fluid coming out of ears or nose
- Headaches that progressively get worse
- Distinct changes in pupils (bigger or smaller than usual, or they look different from eye to eye)
- Weakness in arms or legs
- Obvious changes in speech (slurred or slowed) or response time
- Significant balance or coordination problems
- Severe confusion or disorientation
- Pale appearance if longer than one hour
Seek care within 1-2 days if these symptoms worsen.
- Dizziness and/or headaches
- Vision or speech problems
- Balance and coordination problems
- Difficulty focusing or changes in behavior
- Large head or facial bruising appears
- Significant sleep disturbances
Another important point is that if symptoms are not necessarily significant but remain present for 7-10 days, it is wise to see your general practitioner for evaluation and possible testing.
It is imperative that if there’s a significant blow to the head, or these symptoms occur because of a collision activity (such as a sport), that you stop participating in that activity until you are seen and cleared. Sports leagues that have long ignored the truth of the seriousness of concussions and their lasting effects, such as the NFL, have initiated changes and improvements to concussion protocols. The point is to protect its athletes because the risks are so great; a second concussion on top of an existing concussion is extremely dangerous -- as in life-or-death dangerous. It’s imperative to allow the brain the time to re-acclimate and heal properly.
Activity improves our health, but there is some risk that accompanies it. Whether playing basketball, cycling, or trail running -- or even walking around the block -- there is risk for a simple misstep to cause a bump on the head. Concussions can happen. The key is to know what they are, and how to best prevent and treat them with the significance they deserve.
See a chiropractor following a concussion. When the head takes a blow that results in a concussion, there are absolutely other effects within the spine; it is impossible for that to not occur. After proper medical attention for the concussion, proper chiropractic evaluation and consistent care can assist the body in healing to the greatest level and in a shorter period of time. It will help restore full range of motion and proper brain-body communication. Don’t take concussions for granted. Your body and your head will thank you for it.
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