Suspect a Concussion After a Car Accident? Diagnosed with a Mild Brain Injury? Think You Have a Concussion but Your Doctor Says No?
Mild brain injuries and concussions are common after car accidents
Many doctors fail to recognize a brain injury in the office unless there was a frank period of unconsciousness. After a car accident that involved jerking or jarring of the head and obviously if you felt your head hit the head restraint or other portion of your car, look for these symptoms:
Feeling dazed or stunned immediately after the collision
Feeling like you are in slow motion or are under water soon after the accident
Wanting to be alone
Difficulty speaking/tongue tied
Feelings of isolation from others
Pupils different sizes
Room spins, woozy
Dozing during day
Can't remember numbers
Difficulty with adding/subtracting
Difficulty learning new things
Difficulty remembering things
Re-reading to understand things
Difficulty making decisions
Change in sexual functioning
Apathy (Don't care)
Change in sense of smell or taste
Flashbacks to accident
If you have more than a few of these symptoms after a car accident or other injury in which your head was either struck or jerked quickly, you may have a brain injury or concussion.
Despite the reluctance of many general practice medical physicians and chiropractors to diagnoses a head injury, the fact is, they occur everyday and in most instances there is no loss of consciousness. If you believe you have some of these symptoms, even if your doctor says you are alright, seek evaluation from a concussion expert right away.
Detecting a Concussion
There are questionnaires a concussion expert or mild traumatic brain injury specialist will ask you to complete. These written tests evaluate certain aspects of brain function in everyday life and can alert the doctor that a possible brain issue exists.
A specific physical examination can then be performed to assess the different areas of the brain for damage and/or malfunction. The exam will test your general neurologic status (reflexes, strength, sensation), your coordination (hand and leg movements, walking), ability to perform simple tasks with eyes open and closed, your ability to memorize and relay simple information through speech and test your eye movements.
A competent doctor who evaluates and treats many brain injury patients will be able to determine if a concussion exists fairly quickly.
So You've Been Diagnosed with a Concussion... Now What?
Many general doctors and even neurologists will tell you there is no treatment for concussions, that it just takes time to heal. That's simply not true.
When the NFL began admitting they had a concussion problem and were taking steps to prevent and treat their players with brain injuries, trainers and sports injury doctors began implementing "a new type of treatment." In fact, a few years back they actually showed this treatment in a segment during the Superbowl. The "new treatment" was actually a treatment that auto accident injury doctors had been using for several years for their concussion patients.
Supplemental oxygen is given to "super oxygenate" the blood stream to get optimum levels of oxygen to the brain. Oxygen is a basic fuel used by the brain to function. Without proper levels, the brain cannot function let alone heal after an injury. Oxygen is supplied by a simple oxygenator machine that takes atmospheric oxygen, concentrates it down to 95% oxygen and then pumps it through a nasal cannula for the patient o breathe in. Treatments are typically 15-30 minutes.
Another system of delivering optimum oxygen levels to the brain is hyperbaric oxygen. This is a tube or enclosure that the patient lies down in and is pressurized to 4-7x the normal atmospheric pressure. While in this compressed enclosure, an oxygenator is again supplying supplemental oxygen through a nasal cannula or mask. The high atmospheric pressure makes more oxygen reach the blood. Typical treatments are about an hour. The only draw backs are discomfort in the ears like flying in an airplane due to altitude and the enclosure can be difficulty for people with claustrophobia.
Cold Laser Therapy
Low light therapy using a laser, so-called "cold" laser because the wavelength of light does not produce heat, has been around for some time. The light stimulates certain components within the cells to enhance their activity. In essence, the cells are supercharged to effect nerve repair faster and relieve pain and inflammation. Sessions are quick, painless and can be performed at the same time as oxygen therapy.
Proprioceptive Exercises may involve movement of the arms or legs, walking with arms and legs swinging in a specific sequence, balancing on one leg or on a ball and others are all aimed at getting the brain to function more normally. These exercises are designed to get the left and right halves of the brain to talk to each other more effectively because many brain injuries from car collisions are centered at the part of the brain that links left and right halves called the corpus callosum.
Vestibular Exercises may include eye exercises in which your eyes track a moving target, or being spun in a chair are used to help with dizziness caused when the brain and/or inner ear are disturbed by trauma.
Cognitive Exercises are things like crossword and word find puzzles that improve thinking performance. Memory games may be given to bolster memory function and concentration often impaired after a concussion.
Imagine tearing a muscle and instead of resting it, you lifted very heavy weight with it. What would happen? More damage and it would not heal obviously. The brain is no different. With a concussion there is actual physical damage to nerve cells. In order to heal in the best manner possible, the cells need rest so your body can tend to the damage.
While suffering from a concussion avoid:
Computer and TV use ( if you must use them, no more than 30 mins at one time with several hours between uses)
Over thinking, if your job involves high levels of thinking and concentration or you're a student you might want to limit your hours at work or school to avoid over stressing your brain
Any activities that involve bouncing of the head and body such as jogging, running, stair climbing, aerobic exercises, martial arts, cross training, off road vehicles, etc
Take total brain rest at least once each day
Total brain rest means lying in a darkened room with no music or other sounds for 30 to 60 minutes daily. The goal is to limit all input to the brain as much as possible so that it rests.
The brain needs oxygen and other nutrients to heal. Studies have shown key nutrients are successful at speeding the repair of the brain if taken in correct dosages. Supplements such as Vitamins A, C, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids, certain B vitamins, lecithin and others can be very helpful in recovering from a brain injury. There are also key food items to avoid if you've suffered a concussion. Artificial sweeteners (Aspartame), MSG, calcium and other items confound brain healing and can prolong recovery.
Concussions and Brain Injuries Take Time
The rate at which your brain recovers depends on many factors, but severity of injury, age, prior history of brain injuries, general health status and willingness to follow treatment plans all play a part. Very mild injuries can resolve in a matter of weeks, while more pervasive injuries may take 2 years. The advice of take it easy and your brain will get better is passe. Today, we know much more about how the brain works, how it becomes injured and what steps can be taken to maximize healing in as short a time as possible. Experience tells us that a positive pro-active approach is superior to sitting back and waiting.
If You've Suffered a Brain Injury as a Result of a Car Accident or Other Trauma, Call (714) 938-0575 and Speak with Dr. Marks.
Dr Barry Marks Chiropractor has an extensive background in brain injury and spinal trauma and has successfully cared for concussion victims in Orange County since 1986.