Relief for Chronic Concussion Symptoms
Shutterstock, credit to TZIDO SUN
by Eric Winder, DC
Most concussion injuries are mild, and symptoms heal quickly. However, for some people, concussion symptoms can last for months or even years. Headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and neck pain are some of the problems that can persist. Fortunately, these chronic symptoms are often relieved by gentle fascia release therapies.
In this country, over three million people suffer from concussions each year. These injuries are mostly diagnosed by symptoms because concussion does not show on MRI or CT scans. This lack of test findings means that when symptoms from such a mild brain injury last beyond the normal recovery time, the reason is usually unknown. My clinical experience suggests that one reason is altered tension in the connective tissue called fascia.
Fascia is fibrous tissue that forms a covering over other tissues, such as muscles, bones, blood vessels, organs, and your brain and spinal cord. Impact injuries can result in increased stiffness in the fascia that lasts long after the injury heals. Gentle treatments to release this stiffness can give relief of chronic pain, including in cases of past head injury.
As an example, a short while ago, a patient I will refer to as Bill came into our office for help with lower back pain and concussion symptoms that started six months prior. Bill was concussed when standing up from a crouched position, impacting his head into an open cabinet door. While the nausea and disorientation that appeared at the time of injury disappeared, he still had frequent headaches, neck pain, dizziness and difficulty concentrating at times.
On examination, Bill exhibited stiffening of the fascia at the top of his skull, as well as on both sides of his upper neck and mid-back. Because our “position sense” for coordinated motion comes from fascia, this stiffening can disturb position sense and cause abnormal muscle tension and joint alignment. This can result in pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
After one treatment, the intensity of Bill’s headaches decreased greatly. Over the course of several visits, his mental focus returned to normal, the headaches disappeared, and his neck stiffness decreased. His lower back pain disappeared also.
Bill was surprised that he achieved so much relief from such a gentle hands-on therapy. Because the stiffness in fascia from injury is caused by the nervous system, not due to an “adhesion” in the fibrous tissue, treatment does not require much force. Instead, the therapy used at our office utilizes precise, light pressure to reflexively trigger relaxation of tight fascia. When explaining this to patients, I often compare the treatment to popping a dent from a can. The tissue is returned to normal, and it remains that way.
Again, the reason fascial stiffening can contribute to head injury symptoms is likely due to glitches in proprioception, or position sense. Most of the nerve endings for position sense are embedded in fascia, so the stiffening that can occur from head impact can cause subtle confusion in the body’s position sense, leading to abnormal muscle tension, nerve irritation, dizziness and other symptoms.
Gentle fascia release therapy can be a very effective way to treat chronic symptoms from a past concussion. If you or a loved one suffer from lasting, unresolved symptoms after a head injury, I recommend an evaluation by a practitioner experienced in using fascial therapy for this kind of problem.
Eric Winder, D.C., uses gentle manual therapy and rehab techniques to help patients with a wide range of pain and injury problems. Dr. Winder has offices in Sarasota and Osprey. For more information, call 941-957-8390 or visit Gentlebay.com.