Concussion: Rehabilitation and Nutrition
By Daniel Rocha LMT CPT CNS
A concussion is a brain injury, and the primary focus of concussion management should be rest, symptom management, and gradual return to activities under healthcare professionals' guidance. The core treatment for concussions involves physical and cognitive rest, followed by a gradual reintroduction of activities based on symptom improvement.
Concussion rehabilitation is a specialized process that aims to help individuals recover from a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The goal of rehabilitation is to manage symptoms, restore normal brain function, promote recovery, and facilitate a safe return to daily activities, work, and sports.
1. Rest and Activity Management: Initially, rest is often recommended to allow the brain to heal. This may involve reducing physical and cognitive activities, such as limiting screen time, avoiding bright lights, and minimizing noise. As symptoms improve, a gradual return to daily activities and exercises under the guidance of a healthcare professional is typically recommended.
2. Symptom Management: Various symptoms may arise after a concussion, including headaches, dizziness, balance problems, difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and mood changes. Rehabilitation may involve strategies to manage these symptoms, such as medication, relaxation techniques, sleep management, and stress reduction.
3. Physical Therapy: Physical therapists assess and treat issues related to balance, coordination, strength, and endurance. Exercise programs can be tailored to an individual's needs, gradually reintroducing physical activity and sports-specific training while monitoring symptoms.
4. Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists focus on helping individuals regain their ability to perform daily activities, such as self-care, work tasks, and school-related activities. They provide strategies to manage cognitive challenges, improve attention and memory, and develop compensatory techniques.
5. Vision Therapy: Concussions can affect visual function, leading to difficulties with eye coordination, focusing, and tracking. Vision therapy, provided by optometrists or therapists specializing in vision rehabilitation, helps improve visual skills and reduce associated symptoms.
6. Cognitive Rehabilitation: Cognitive difficulties are common after a concussion. Neuropsychologists or speech-language pathologists provide cognitive rehabilitation to address issues with attention, memory, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. This may involve specific exercises, compensatory strategies, and environmental modifications.
7. Gradual Return-to-Play: For athletes recovering from a concussion, a structured return-to-play protocol is followed to minimize the risk of re-injury. This involves gradually increasing physical activity levels, monitoring symptoms, and obtaining medical clearance before resuming full-contact sports.
Concussion rehabilitation should be individualized based on the person's symptoms, functional limitations, and progress. Nutrition plays a vital role in concussion recovery by providing the necessary nutrients to support brain healing, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health. While there is no specific diet for concussions, focusing on a well-balanced, nutrient-dense eating plan is beneficial.
1. Hydration: Staying adequately hydrated is essential for brain function and overall recovery. Consume 16-24oz of electrolyte water with every meal. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, as they can dehydrate the body.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as fruits, vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens), fatty fish (salmon, sardines), nuts, seeds, olive oil, and turmeric.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids support brain health and reduce inflammation. Good sources include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and trout), walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
4. Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Antioxidants protect the brain from oxidative stress and promote healing. Include colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, oranges, spinach, kale, broccoli, and bell peppers.
5. Protein: Adequate protein intake provides tissue repair and recovery. Include lean protein sources, such as poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and tofu, in your meals.
6. Complex Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates provide the brain with energy. Choose complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. NO refined and processed carbohydrates.
7. Adequate Calories: Depending on the severity of the concussion and individual factors, some people may experience changes in appetite or energy levels. Consume enough calories to support the healing process and maintain energy levels.
8. Nutrient Supplements: Obtain most of your nutrients from whole foods. Specific supplements may be beneficial, so consult with a registered dietitian to determine if any supplements are necessary based on your needs.
9. Avoid Triggers: Certain foods or substances worsen their concussion symptoms. Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and additives. Pay attention to your symptoms and consider eliminating or reducing these triggers if they have an adverse effect.
Every individual's needs may vary, so consult a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation and needs.
Chiropractic or naprapathic care are alternative medicine that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and preventing disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Chiropractic or naprapathic care for concussions involves the manipulation of the cervical spine (neck) and surrounding structures to alleviate symptoms related to neck pain, headaches, and dizziness, which are common after a concussion. Realigning the spine and improving spinal function positively impact concussion recovery.
If you're considering chiropractic or naprapathic care for a concussion, it's essential to consult with your primary healthcare provider, such as a medical doctor or a specialist in concussion management. They can evaluate your specific situation, provide appropriate recommendations, and coordinate your care with other healthcare professionals as needed.
Remember, the management of concussions should be comprehensive and involve a multidisciplinary approach that may include medical doctors, neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and naprapaths.