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What Should I Do After a Concussion?

Article by Dr. Kelsy Rayl, PT, DPT

Photography by Lynn Townsend

Concussions have been getting more attention lately, especially in sports and the media. There's a lot of new advice out there, but also some old information. If you think you've had a concussion from a sports injury, car accident, fall at home, or another way, physical therapy can help you heal from your injury and manage any symptoms you might be facing.

Let's answer some common questions about concussions.

What's a Concussion?

There are several definitions for concussion. The definition I find to be the most succinct comes from the American Institute of Balance - “Any structural or metabolic disturbance to the central nervous system or inner ear following an impact to the head or body.” 

What Symptoms Follow a Concussion?

After a concussion, symptoms can vary a lot from person to person. They fall into four categories:

  • Physical: Headache, neck pain, sensitivity to light or noise, vision issues, dizziness, balance problems, nausea, vomiting.

  • Cognitive: Memory troubles, trouble focusing, confusion, feeling slowed down, feeling “in a fog,” trouble thinking clearly.

  • Emotional: Anxiety, nervousness, sadness, irritability, feeling more emotional.

  • Sleep: Tiredness, low energy, changes in sleep patterns.

When Should I Start Physical Therapy After a Concussion?

The sooner, the better! You can start getting relief from symptoms and healing strategies right after a concussion. Studies show that starting treatment within 7 days of the injury can reduce recovery time by around 20 days compared to waiting 2-3 weeks [Kontos et al., 2020 JAMA Neurology].

What Can a Physical Therapist Do to Help Me Recover?

A lot! Most concussions come with neck pain. Physical therapists are experts in treating muscle and joint problems. If your therapist is concussion-certified, that's even better. They can use strategies like neuromuscular activation, proprioception work, visual processing, vestibular rehabilitation, strength training, balance training, sensory integration, and more to help your recovery.

Should I Exercise During Concussion Recovery?

Yes! Gentle aerobic activity can help you recover. Just be careful not to overdo it and make your symptoms worse. The Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test (BCTT) measures your heart rate and exertion to guide safe exercise.

Can Physical Therapy Help Even After a Long Time?

Absolutely! Our brains can heal and change even years after an injury. Progress is possible no matter how much time has passed.

How Can I Make an Appointment After a Concussion?

Click here to get started.

At SparqPT, you'll get one-on-one personal attention. We'll create a plan tailored to your needs to help you feel better in fewer visits. Together, we can manage your symptoms, improve your balance, and bring back your quality of life!

Please note that the thoughts and ideas presented in this article reflect the author's viewpoint, unless stated otherwise. This content should not be considered as individual medical guidance. The details shared are designed to assist readers in making well-informed choices regarding their own health and well-being.

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