Concussions are common injuries, and most of us know at least a few people who have experienced one. This can happen from a sports injury, a work injury, a car accident, and many other events that cause a blow to the head. Although concussions are common, they are traumatic brain injuries that need to be looked at by a medical professional. Concussions can have severe symptoms and lead to other severe conditions, so you should always get them adequately examined. 

For anyone suffering from the effects of a concussion, physical therapy can make a big difference in the recovery. At Cawley Physical Therapy, we offer concussion management therapy in NEPA that can aid in your recovery, so you can get back to living a safe, active lifestyle. 

How Does Physical Therapy Help Concussions?

If this is your first concussion or your first time caring for someone with a concussion, you might be wondering, “what does a concussion mean?” and what treatment can help if one is needed. Physical therapy is a great treatment option for those suffering from a concussion for multiple reasons. 

Here are a few ways a physical therapist can help your concussion symptoms. 

Relieve Neck and Head Pain

A concussion can cause neck pain and headaches that could last for a while. Physical therapy is a common choice for pain relief caused by many injuries and could help patients eliminate some of their pain without requiring medication. Different techniques like exercises, stretches, and massages can help provide relief from these symptoms to help those with concussions feel more comfortable as they recover. 

Reduce Dizziness and Improve Balance

Dizziness is a common symptom for many people after a concussion and can be extremely unpleasant and even unsafe to deal with. If a person feels dizzy or is prone to losing their balance after their concussion, they could risk hurting themselves even more if they fall. Vestibular rehabilitation physical therapy is popular for many people experiencing dizziness and balance issues, including those with concussions. 

Safely Get You Back to Normal

Like any injury, you don’t want to push yourself after a concussion. It’s extremely important to understand your limitations after an injury like this to keep you from injuring yourself any further. When it’s time to start going back to your old routine, you want to be sure you’re doing it safely. Physical therapy helps patients safely return to their regular activities at their own pace. Patients can learn to build their strength back up after this serious injury carefully. 

Get Care for Your Concussion in NEPA 

Getting the right help for a concussion is the best thing a person can do to help themselves recover. While recovering from a concussion can be hard for some, physical therapy can help make this much easier and safer. At Cawley Physical Therapy, you can work with an expert team to develop a personalized treatment plan that considers your symptoms and pain to ensure that it’s effective. 

If you have persistent concussion symptoms, don’t try to handle this yourself. Contact Cawley Physical Therapy to see if physical therapy for concussions is the right fit for you.

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Cervical, Vestibular, & Oculomotor Rehabilitation

In 2014, Schneider et al., published one of the first randomized clinical trials comparing a group receiving a combination of cervical and vestibular rehabilitation versus a group that was given the usual treatment approach (i.e., wait and see until symptoms subside and gradually return to activity). The average age of subjects was 15 years old, and all experienced symptoms beyond 10 days. Both groups received treatment from a physiotherapist at least once per week for 8 weeks. After the 8- week trial, 73% of subjects receiving treatment fully recovered and returned to sport compared to only 7% of subjects receiving the usual, wait and see treatment approach.2

Another randomized clinical trial published in 2017 looked at concussion patients between ages 10 to 23 years old who experienced symptoms beyond 10 days after injury. These patients were randomized to either receive an individualized and progressive treatment plan consisting of manual therapy of the neck, vestibular rehabilitation, oculomotor and neuromotor retraining, or a sub-therapeutic treatment approach consisting of sham, sub-therapeutic, and non-progressive therapeutic techniques. All subjects were seen up to a maximum of 8 visits or until they were fully cleared to return to play by a blinded sport-medicine physician (whichever came first).

The progressive treatment group achieved symptom resolution and clearance to resume full sport activities significantly sooner than the sub-therapeutic treatment group. The authors, Reneker et al., concluded that a personalized treatment plan consisting of manual therapy, vestibular rehabilitation, oculomotor and neuromotor retraining delivered to patients while still symptomatic, beginning as early as 10 days after concussion, may be an effective option to shorten recovery time.3

But, when should a patient be referred for these treatments? And, where should they go?

The Berlin Consensus Statement defines persistent symptoms as those lasting more than 10-14 days in adults, and more than 1 month in children.1 The good news is that recent evidence suggests that starting rehabilitation as early as 10 days after injury may improve recovery time and decrease the risk of developing post-concussion syndrome (PCS).3

The trick for success seems to be a multi-faceted treatment approach versus rehabilitation focused on one specific area (for example, only vestibular rehabilitation).

Controlled, Sub-Symptom Threshold Exercise

For more than 10 years, researchers at the University of Buffalo have been studying the effects of utilizing a controlled exercise program to improve persistent PCS. Several trials demonstrate significant reductions in symptoms, meaningful improvements in cerebral blood flow mechanics, and complete return to all pre-injury activities in as little as 6 to 10 weeks over sham therapies (i.e., stretching).4,5,6,7 A recent systematic review found that physical exercise appears to improve symptom scores in patients with concussion.8 Further, a large, Canadian multi-centre study found that initiating physical activity within 7 days post-concussion was associated with a lower risk of developing persistent symptoms in children.9

How to Apply These Findings

There are several therapeutic options for patients with concussion and most are centred around specific therapies for the cervical spine, vestibular system, visual system, and cardiovascular system. Evidence shows that a focused rehabilitation approach that begins within the first 7 to 10 days after injury can significantly improve outcomes and decrease long-term symptoms in children and adults.3 As most concussion cases have symptom resolution within the first week, it is recommended that patients with symptoms beyond this time point be referred to a multidisciplinary clinic with advanced training in the management and rehabilitation of concussion.

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