A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that occurs as a result of a sudden blow or force applied directly or indirectly to the head, resulting in disturbance in brain function. Concussion symptoms can affect a person physically, emotionally, and cognitively.
Symptoms of Concussion
- Physical: Headache, neck pain or stiffness, imbalance, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, sleep disturbance, altered vision, sensitivity to light and sound
- Emotional: Irritability, restlessness, anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggression, decreased stress tolerance
- Cognitive: Short- or long-term memory loss, confusion, slowed processing, fogginess, difficulty concentrating
Physical therapy is often prescribed for patients after a concussion to address the physical symptoms of concussion. This may include manual therapy for headache or neck pain; vestibular rehabilitation to address dizziness, altered vision, or imbalance; and exercises to improve range of motion, flexibility, strengthening, and balance. Vestibular rehabilitation is a specialized type of physical therapy that addresses the parts of the inner ear and the brain that are responsible for balance, equilibrium, and gaze stability. Physical therapy also includes extensive patient education to help patients gradually return to their normal activities without exacerbation of symptoms, including exercise or sports.
Physical therapists also monitor their patients’ emotional and cognitive symptoms and communicate with the referring physician if a referral to other health care providers may be warranted.
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- Morris, L. and Nogi, A. (2019, August). Concussion. Fact Sheet.
- Farrell, L. (2015). Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy. Vestibular Disorders Association. Portland, OR.