What is Post Concussion Syndrome?

Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is a complex disorder characterized by a wide range of symptoms such as headache, dizziness, sleep problems, anxiety and depression that persist weeks to months after a concussion injury. Not everyone who sustains a concussion goes on to suffer from PCS. In fact, researchers are still uncertain why some individuals experience PCS after concussion and others do not. Symptoms associated with PCS typically resolve within 3 months, however 10-15% of people may go on to experience symptoms for longer.

What Causes PCS?

There is still significant debate over what causes PCS. It may be related to underlying structural damage to the brain, or continued disturbance in the function of certain neural pathways. PCS also shares symptom characteristics similar to some psychological disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Likely PCS is a combination of both biological and psychological factors.

What are the Symptoms of PCS?

Symptoms of PCS may be physical, cognitive, behavioural, and/or sleep and mood related. PCS affects each person differently, and treatment should be tailored to the individual needs of the individual.

Common PCS symptoms include:

  • Persistent headache
  • Neck Pain and soreness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Eye pain, strain or visual fatigue
  • Blurry vision or sometimes double vision
  • Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping a significant amount
  • Persistent fatigue and drowsiness
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Sense of “sea-sickness” or motion sickness
  • Difficulty with concentration, dividing attention, retrieving memories or words
  • Anxiety, Depression
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty regulating your emotions

Some people are unable to work or go to school because of the severity of their symptoms. It is important to seek medical advice if you find yourself experiencing ongoing issues following a concussion.

What Treatments are Available for PCS?

When PCS symptoms are severe, treatment typically requires an interdisciplinary team of health professionals. Shift’s Healthcare Providers are trained to tease out the various factors that may be contributing to a patient’s PCS and provide individualized treatment recommendations. These may include:

Physical Rehabilitation for the Neck:

Neck pain is an irritating symptom that can often snowball into headache, even contributing to dizziness in patients with PCS. If your neck has been affected by the injury, you may benefit from a variety of treatment techniques designed to reduce pain, improve range of motion and joint function, as well as increase strength and stability around the cervical spine.

Vestibular-Ocular Rehabilitation:

Many PCS patients experience persistent dizziness, vertigo and visual complaints. This is often rooted in dysfunction of the vestibular and/or visual systems. The vestibular system provides us with our sense of balance, spatial orientation and equilibrium. When the neural pathways that process this information become impaired, we must “re-train” these systems by means of vestibular and visual rehabilitation. This process works through “neuroplasticity” – the brain’s inherent ability to re-organize itself. Typically this involves a series of exercises completed both in clinic and at home that are designed to gradually reduce dizziness, motion sensitivity and visual complaints. You may be required to visit an Optometrist before undergoing this type of rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation through Exercise:

Research is now showing that early exercise may play a role in recovery from PCS. It’s hard to imagine wanting to exercise while experiencing PCS symptoms, but our Healthcare Providers can help you find an exercise type/level that does not further aggravate symptoms while providing you with the health benefits of staying active. It may be as simple as developing a daily walking program or as complex as gradually getting you back into some of your previous fitness activities.

Shift Healthcare Providers will work collaboratively with your existing medical providers and provide recommendations for additional referrals/services that may be required to support your recovery.