Concussion Treatment and Prevention Part 1


Chronic Headaches is a common lingering symptom from concussion.

Chronic Headaches is a common lingering symptom from concussion.

Concussions and there lingering symptoms can often last for for months or longer. I have had patients come into the office with symptoms like daily headaches, inability to concentrate and poor sleep that have lasted over a year or more. In the medical community there does not seem to have a unified consensus on how to best heal from  concussion. Most of the advice seems like common sense: rest, reduce computer and television screen time, reduce homework or work load, exercise to tolerance and return to play when you are symptom free. Concussion prevention advice is even weaker.  Athletes are told to buy better equipment and and get a base line neurological assessment so that they can detect a concussion earlier.  It is often pointed out that a previous concussion is predictive of future concussions. It seems to avoid concussion, the advice is don’t get one in the first place. How is that prevention?  To me this is a very passive and defensive way to both prevent and heal from a concussion.

Concussion Treatment

I have treated patients with acute and chronic post concussion syndrome. The approach that gets results is usually involves cranial adjusting, leveling the head and neck and treating other injuries in the body that can affect gait.

The sutures of the skull actually move rhythmically.  These joints are often become stuck with trauma.

The sutures of the skull actually move rhythmically. These joints are often become stuck with trauma.

The cranial bones of the skull move in a rhythmic fashion with the rest of the spine and pelvis and can be accentuated by your breath. These ideas were discover by William Sutherland, D.O. a century ago. The movement occurs along joints called sutures which you can see as the squiggly lines on the picture of the skull.  Cranial motion moves cerebral spinal fluid around the spinal chord and even out to the ends of the nerves coming form the spinal column. Here is a cool video of CSF flow under MRI. The cerebral spinal fluid is critical to healing because it brings nutrients to the tissues of the brain and nerves as well as helps move waste out. Increased CSF fluid pressure, which can result from poor flow, can can disrupt blood flow in the brain as well. With direct trauma there is more waste to move out and a desperate need for nutrition as the brain heals.  Compromised CSF flow and blood flow is a very bad thing for people are trying to heal their brain. Physicians generally do not know you skull moves and fail to consider restoring its mobility from a blow to the head. Damage and pressure on the brain of course can affect the function of any part of the body.  There is no more important chiropractic adjustment that can be done to affect the brain directly than cranials.  I use Applied Kinesiology to locate which bones are no moving and with gentle rhythmic pressure restore motion.  The relief from symptoms is sometimes immediate and sometimes takes a month or two as we treat the body. It all depends on a person’s state of health before the concussion.  I usually tell the patient that when their skull starts moving its like the first day of the healing process. When their skull is locked it is like healing has been suspended until the cerebral spinal fluid starts circulating again.  Looking for a practitioner who uses cranial techniques can drastically cut the time it takes to heal form a concussion.

As a chiropractor my primary focus is to help restore function to nervous system.  A nervous system that can receive information from the body, process it appropriately and send the correct output is healthy. Injuries tend to interrupt your body’s ability to communicate with itself. Concussions usually come with other trauma especially with blows to the head.  A foot ball player may suffer a concussion from a helmet to helmet collision but there will be an accompanying whiplash from the head going one way and the body another.


The upper trap and SCM are visualized on the side of the neck in this illustration.

The upper trap and SCM are visualized on the side of the neck in this illustration.

Whiplash is usually more than a sprain of the spine. There is usually strain and lingering inhibition of some of the muscles like the scalenes, upper trap or sternocleidomastoid. These traumatized muscles may not be painful after a few days but often remain dysfunctional. If for example the the SCM and upper trap are inhibited from the trauma on the right the muscle on the left will begin to pull the head to the left. This may result in pain pain the left side of the neck as those muscle become tight. What is just a significant about this example is that the eyes will not let the head tilt that far to the left during the day. It is however, exhausting for the brain to not let you fall over all day long. The brain is constantly and unconsciously trying to keep the head level by assessing combining all the information from the eyes, ears and body. When all the information is not making sense the brain cannot integrate the information well enough to give appropriate out-put.  The result can be dysfunction elsewhere in the body. What if the neck wasn’t the only injury? Those injuries and even past injuries need to be to treated as well so that more effective integration of the nervous system is possible. That is a short statement but very important.

Once the cranial bones have been freed up and function has started to be restored to the rest of the body. You have to move the body to help connect the brain back to the injured areas and the rest of the body. I have used simple cross crawl exercises in the past to activate the whole body and synchronize the brain until I found something that I liked better. Power Kinetics developed by Dr. Eugene Charles is like cross-crawl for Superman! This is a challenging workout but I really like the way he integrates movement of the entire body and brain while reducing the risk of injury.


Spark by John Ratey, MD

Spark by John Ratey, MD

With a functioning body and normally moving skull additional aerobic exercise can be added at low intensities at first.  Aerobic exercise delivers much needed blood flow to the brain for bringing healing nutrients which also removes metabolic wastes. If you are running or even walking you get the benefit of moving your body in a cross crawl pattern that helps integrate your nervous system. In the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey, MD convincingly lays out study after study showing that shows exercise is better than medication for depression, ADHD/ADD, managing stress, addiction and for anti-aging. Aerobic exercise builds neural connections so your brain can literally rewire itself and levels out neurotransmitters which can be responsible for a persons sense of well-being. This is a massive topic but for now this is just more proof that exercise is good for your brain especially when healing form concussion.


Concussion Prevention


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I will cover some strategies for concussion prevention.


The Sacroiliac Joint and Low Back Pain

The morning after the first storm! My car is in there somewhere.

The morning after the first storm! My car is in there somewhere.

When we set up our practice in East Aurora and decided to live in Elma we knew there would be snow but these last couple days have been crazy! An entire years worth of snow (71 inches) in 2 days! As I was shoveling for hours on end, I was constantly thinking about my form taking care not to lift the heavy snow with my lower back. Snow events like these usually lead to an increase of patients with back injuries and the most common injury tends to be a sprain of the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac (SI) joint is located just below the base of the spine on the left and right and can be considered part of the pelvis.  The SI becomes over-stretched spraining the ligament in the joint space. It makes sense that this can happen because of the heavy snow and repetitive nature of shoveling.  More commonly the patient is set up for this injury because the muscle surrounding and supporting the sacroiliac joint are not working properly. Now when the person goes to shovel the SI joint is more likely to sprain because the forces of lifting and turning are going through the joint instead the muscles.  This is the case throughout the body. Inhibited or poorly function muscles cannot move the joints correctly and then the joint itself begins to break down.  Muscle inhibition is often painless and the first symptom you feel is inflammation in whatever joint those muscles are supposed to support.

What to do about a sprained sacroiliac joint beyond ice and rest.

  • His hand is on the top part of the sacroliac pain. The SI joint may extend 1-2 inches below his finger tips.

    His hand is on the top part of the sacroliac pain. The SI joint may extend 1-2 inches below his finger tips.

    Correct the source of of inhibited muscles. The major muscle that helps stabilize the sacroiliac joint are the sartorius, gracilis, rectus femoris and abdominals in the front and glut max and piriformis on the back.  This is where applied kinesiology shines by letting the body tell us what the major source of stress in the body that is causing the inhibition. The most common causes for the sacroiliac joint are blood sugar handling issues, chronic stress and joint fixation. These types of stressors often go unnoticed and when you go to do some strenuous physical activity the joint is no longer supported by the right muscles and becomes sprained. I would say this is more often the case, but it is possible to over do an activity like shoveling and sprain the sacroiliac joint out right. Even then the supporting muscles will be inhibited and need direct attention.

  • See a chiropractor for adjustments! Muscles move bones which is why I tend to address muscle inhibition first.  However, fixations of the joints associated with the sacrum, pelvis, low back and even as far away as the neck can cause pain and muscle inhibition throughout the body. Freeing these joints allows the nervous system to properly communicate with the muscles and the rest of the body. The result is less pain and improved function. The right adjustment, in the right place and at the right time can be one of the most powerful tools for restoring normal tone on the nervous system. It makes sense that a joint should be able to move freely and be in the correct position for optimal healing.
  • I like to use the Serola Belt to help stabilized the sacroiliac joint after it has been sprained. Think of a sacroiliac sprain as a sprained ankle but in your back. With any sprained joint you need to rest and support the joint as it heals.  In general, I am not a fan of supporting joints all the time because it tends to promote weakness around those joints because the muscles become dependent on the brace and start to not do their job. While a joint is healing a brace can be very useful with the idea that you will use it less and less over the course of 3-4 weeks.
  • Avoid re-injuring the sacroiliac joint. Get up from a sitting position every 20-30 minutes and walk around. Watch shearing forces through the pelvis like getting in a car. Instead of putting one leg in at a time instead try sitting your behind in the car first and then bring both legs into the car at the same time. When bending over to pick things up of the floor bend your knee slightly and bend toward the ground at your hips while keeping your low back straight. This engages the big muscles in your low back and the stress is taken off the sacroiliac joints.  If an activity feels like its straining your injured area-Do Not Do It!

Look for Part II of this post where I will cover stabilizing the sacroiliac joint with exercise.

Bonus Owen and Claire Pics!

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