Post-Concussion Syndrome: What You Need To Know

Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) can occur with any kind of a head injury. One of the most frequent occurrences is after an automotive accident. It can also occur with sports injuries, falls, hitting your head on a car door or other object. The level of intensity of the syndrome is not necessarily proportional to the severity of the trauma. A relatively minor bump on the head can cause significant symptoms. Essentially, post-concussion syndrome is a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Post-concussion symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches (including migraines)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Loss of memory
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Frustration not being able to perform normally
  • Insomnia
  • Blurry vision
  • Neck pain
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Other emotional coping issues

How is post-concussion syndrome diagnosed?

Primarily by the signs and symptoms mentioned above, testing for deficits in balance and coordination, and a cognitive survey called a Glasgow scale. MRI and CT scan generally cannot assess injury, so, some patients get frustrated that no definitive lab tests can define their injury. Females and young people are at a higher risk for PCS, as are those who have already experienced three or more concussions. Other risk factors are preexisting conditions such as migraines, memory issues, neurological issues such as Epilepsy and learning disabilities. If the symptoms of the concussion do not resolve in the usual time frame anticipated, a health care provider may make a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome.

How long does it last?

This can be another of the more disconcerting aspects of PCS. It can last a few weeks, a few months, or a year or more. Though some of the symptoms may resolve relatively quickly, it’s common for patients to have residual problems for a long time. One of my patients had two concussions within a 3 month period and, 3 years later, still suffers from symptoms due to “overload” (see chart below).

After a concussion, the brain often has difficulty interpreting information from the inner ear (the vestibular system), which is one of the major organs that maintain our balance and spatial orientation. If this system is not working correctly, a person may experience dizziness, double or abnormal vision in addition to nausea and vomiting. In these instances, a physical therapist trained in treating PCS works with the patient to improve vestibular function.

What are my treatment options?

One of the important aspects of treating PCS is rest and time. As you can imagine, this presents a whole new set of problems for most patients. Socio-economic imperatives require most patients to have a relatively demanding work schedule. Some patients are not able to return to the demands of their job for months or longer, which contributes to the mental and emotional issues of the disorder. Also, patients do not “look sick” so accusations of “faking it” come into play. PCS can seriously impact an adult’s professional, personal, and family life. So, beside rest and time, physical, social, and emotional support can be helpful. Physical Therapy for balance, coordination, and strengthening can help; Chiropractic for alignment and removing pressure on the nerves, as well as massage therapy to relax muscle spasm and tension. Occasionally, psychological and medical (medications) are indicated

As a Chiropractor at Oahu Spine and Rehab, I often see many new patients who come to me with symptoms that align with PCS. Tailoring the treatment plan to fit the patient’s specific needs while he or she gets the bed rest they need, is vital to recovery. If you or someone you know are suffering from PCS, had a recent accident or have enough of the symptoms where it affects your daily life then give me a call at 808-488-5555! OSR offers Complimentary Consultations from 8am-5pm, Monday- Friday (Tuesdays until 2pm)!


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