Concussions and Traumatic brain injuries can be debilitating injuries with lifelong consequences. Some concussions resolve on their own in a short period of time. When symptoms do not fully resolve, those that remain are classified as post-concussion syndrome.
These remaining symptoms can range from mild to catastrophic. Traumatic brain injury survivors often experience severe headaches, dizziness, light-headedness and vertigo, crippling fatigue, painful light and sound sensitivity, and incapacitating brain fog. They regularly suffer from memory loss, and struggle even to find the words to communicate. Multi-tasking is no longer an option, and even simple task completion often becomes impossible.
Often these symptoms never resolve, despite extensive therapy from numerous physicians and therapists. Brain injury survivors are forced to redefine their goals and expectations. as they struggle to accept their level of reduced function as their new normal. Despite the best efforts of them and their healthcare team, they find that simple tasks can remain profound challenges, and are overwhelmed with sensory stimulus when they try to function in the world. They slowly withdraw from engaging fully in life, and they gradually lose hope.
While there are many ways that the brain can be damaged, we find that most of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome and traumatic brain injuries derive from a failure of integration within the brain.
The primary function of your brain is to make sense of where you are in the environment, so that you can adapt to the world appropriately. Your brain does this with visual, vestibular (inner ear), and proprioceptive (muscle and joint) pathways. It needs to use all of these pathways simultaneously to create a coherent unconscious picture of where the world is, and where you are in relation to gravity and the environment.
These pathways include long, thin, and fragile fibers that project from all over the brain down into the brainstem. This is unfortunately the area that takes the most torque and stress from the multivectorial shearing forces that develop with rapid acceleration and rotation of the head. This disrupts these pathways and damages their integration. They no longer say the same thing about where the body is in relation to the world, and the brain must struggle to resolve the mismatch between the senses. This can be profoundly fatiguing, robs resources from cognitive pathways, and provokes the majority of post-concussive symptoms.
Traumatic Brain Injury & Acquired Brain Injury
A traumatic brain Injury (TBI) is one of the two major categories of acquired brain injuries (ABI), meaning that the injury occurred after the birthing process. A TBI occurs when an external force causes a hit to the head or a rapid start and/or stop motion. Different types of TBI include, but are not limited to concussion, contusion (bruising), diffuse axonal injury (shearing or tearing of brain tissue), or a penetrating injury (like a knife wound or a shard of skull). In 2013, an estimated 2.8 million people were diagnosed with a TBI. Many injuries go unreported.
All suspected TBIs should begin with an immediate visit to the emergency department to determine how severe the case is with CT scan, MRI, or other imaging and inspection. Once released from the hospital, follow-up may include further imaging to assess physical damage, examination, or testing like EEG to check function of the outer layers.
Once released from the hospital, TBI survivors often have lingering symptoms, because the brain’s structure and function has been altered – often significantly. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychological/psychiatric therapy, and follow-ups with a neurologist may be applied to help. These therapies can be effective, especially when an individual must be re-taught gross motor skills such as walking, feeding themselves, etc. Brain injury survivors may still experience symptom months to years later due to the extent of their injury.
How We Can Help
We specialize in helping individuals with life altering TBIs see improved function, years after their injury. Our clinic utilizes the latest in TBI research to bring cutting edge therapies for patients who feel they have plateaued. If you feel like you’ve stopped progressing, and you’re wanting to see what’s possible with clinical neuroscience, read about our innovative strategies for long-time brain injury survivors below.
Even years after your injury, we provide a fresh perspective. Brain imaging can provide insights about structural damage to your neurology, but there’s often more to consider. We dive deep into your brain’s function, an aspect that’s missing from conventional imaging. We systematically assess your entire brain (cortex, brain stem, deep nuclei, and cerebellum), to find the areas unique to your injury that cause your symptoms.
This whole brain assessment includes eye-movement testing, specific balance and posture measurements, and a neurological exam to test all senses and brain regions. Additionally, observation, a thorough history, and a review of medical records are performed. We leave no stone unturned during our diagnostic process to be able to create custom-made therapies to address the root of your problem.