Concussions and Osteopathy

~ Graham Wiltshire, CAT(C), CSCS, DOMP (Thesis Writer)

I have been an Athletic Therapist for almost 17 years and treating osteopathically for 10 years. I have worked at all levels of sports from amateur to professional and have seen the trauma that causes concussions as well as treated people who have suffered from the effects of post-concussion syndrome.

While it has become common knowledge that concussions occur in sports, we are now recognizing that they occur, with increasing frequency, to the general public.

Many people do not have an understanding of what defines a concussion.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury that cannot be seen on an MRI, CT scan or an X-Ray. Concussions can be caused by a blow to the head, face, neck or body that causes a sudden jarring of the head. This trauma will result in symptoms that may or may not include loss of consciousness.

Symptoms often associated with a concussion

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

Headache, loss of consciousness, memory loss, seizure, a sense of pressure in the head, neck pain, dizziness, blurred vision, balance problems, nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, feeling in a ‘fog’, difficulty with memory or concentration, fatigue or drowsiness, trouble with sleep, anxiety, confusion, increased irritability, and increased emotional responses.

Usually most people recover within 7-10 days but some will suffer for weeks or even months. These people are considered to have post-concussion syndrome

Treatment of concussions

Current treatment protocols revolve around rest from activities that aggravate symptoms, education and possibly some medications.

Osteopathy, a very gentle form of manual therapy, can be used as an adjunct to this and may help some individuals recover by treating the restrictions created in the cranial bones, face and neck. Many of the symptoms associated with concussions have been found to be closely linked to structures injured in the neck.

Osteopathy also has a philosophy that the body is a functional unit. Therefore osteopathic practitioners will treat the entire person to help remove anatomical or physiological related barriers that hinder recovery.

Most people should see improvements in as little as two treatments and if no change is reported after four treatments then other options should be discussed.

Coping with a concussion

Concussions and the associated symptoms can be very difficult to manage alone. If a concussion is suspected the first course of action is to consult a healthcare professional. As stated previously, rest from activities that cause an increase in symptoms is necessary. These may include limiting or avoiding physical activity, watching TV or using a computer, bright lights, noisy situations and/or situations that require concentration.
The symptoms of a concussion can be debilitating but recovery can be improved if managed appropriately.