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What Are the Symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome?

woman with severe headacheIf you do suffer a head injury and are fortunate enough to survive it, the next danger is the risk of ongoing effects. What are some of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome? Long-term symptoms of PCS may include:

  • Vertigo and/or dizziness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Migraines and/or headaches
  • Cognitive problems (memory and concentration)
  • Neck pain
  • Mood changes – irritability
  • Tinnitus
  • Sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and/or anxiety

These are just some of the most common symptoms, and other effects may accompany these. It is important to note that these symptoms are not the result of damage to the brain. Ongoing symptoms are caused by changes in the function of the brain and nervous system that were triggered by the initial trauma.

Post-Concussion Syndrome and the Central N.S.

Some researchers want to change the name of the condition to post-traumatic syndrome because these symptoms can arise following many other types of trauma such as a whiplash injury or a fall that causes an injury to an arm or a leg. This research, performed in Australia, is provided as further evidence that symptoms are caused by central nervous system changes and not brain damage. Further research performed in the UK revealed similar results. The term post-traumatic stress disorder has also been coined to refer specifically to depression and anxiety that lingers following trauma.

How Does Post-Concussion Syndrome Relate to the Upper Cervical Spine?

With this background information on concussions, traumatic injuries, and the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, the link to upper cervical misalignments is easier to discern. Consider some of the following effects of a misaligned atlas (C1) and axis (C2).

Impaired Brainstems Function

Since the C1 houses and protects the brainstem, even a slight misalignment can place pressure on this vital part of the nervous system and impair proper function. As a result, communication between the brain and body may suffer. Many of the symptoms noted above can occur due to altered brainstem function.

Inhibited Blood Flow to the Brain

The upper cervical spine plays a vital role in facilitating blood flow to the brain. The vertebral foramen are openings in the cervical vertebrae that leave a passageway for the vertebral arteries. These arteries bring oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Misalignments can cause the vessels bringing blood to the brain to become kinked. If blood flow to certain parts of the brain is inhibited, many of the symptoms noted above may occur.

Reduced Cerebrospinal Fluid Drainage

When the C1 and C2 are misaligned, cerebrospinal fluid may cease to drain properly from the brain to the spinal cord. The result can be intracranial pressure that leads to many of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome and other chronic conditions. This issue has been noted using an upright MRI to track CSF drainage both before and after an upper cervical misalignment was corrected. In this research, drainage improves once the blockage has been corrected. For one former professional American football star, the dramatic effects were life-changing. He went from having to carry his wife’s name and contact info on a card in case he became disoriented while away from home to being able to function on a fairly normal basis.

Now that we see the effects that upper cervical misalignments can have on the nervous system, it is easy to see how such a subluxation can lead to migraines, vertigo, cognitive difficulties, and all of the other telltale signs of post-concussion or post-traumatic syndrome. So let’s take a closer look at what can be the result when these misalignments are corrected by examining a case study.

A Post-Concussion Syndrome Medical Report

A 23-year-old female sought out the care of an upper cervical chiropractor after suffering a fall that resulted in her being diagnosed with a concussion. She had a 10-year history of headaches but reported that they had gotten increasingly worse in the 5 months after her fall. She also complained of positional vertigo (dizziness when moving the head) that came on only after the concussion.

The chiropractor examined her and determined that she had an imbalance in her body due to differing leg length caused by a misalignment in the upper neck. When she received her first adjustment, she immediately had relief of her headaches and vertigo. X-rays indicated improvement in the position of the C1 and C2. The next day, her follow-up exam revealed that her legs were more in balance. She continued receiving care for several months. She no longer had vertigo or suffered headaches. Even those that she was experiencing before the accident were gone.

This case study reveals that not only can post-concussion symptoms be related to an upper cervical misalignment but that correcting the subluxation can lead to symptomatic relief as central nervous system function returns to normal.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care (NUCCA) and Post-Concussion Syndrome

The examples above show the benefits of upper cervical chiropractic for a 5-month long case of PCS as well as for the effects following head injuries that had occurred years in the past (as in the case of the football star). But you may still be wondering what upper cervical chiropractic is and how it differs from general chiropractic. Here are a few things you should know about this subset of chiropractic care.

Low-Force Corrections

Adjustments are not the high-speed forcing, popping, and twisting that most people associate with chiropractic care. These adjustments are provided either by hand or by an adjusting instrument and involve very gentle and precise adjustments. A patient often feels very little of the adjustment itself but may experience a dramatic difference in the effects of the adjustment. The football player mentioned above said that it felt like a bottle had been uncorked.

Precise Adjustments

Adjustments are extremely precise because diagnostic imaging is used to provide the exact location and degree of misalignment. Some methods can measure a subluxation to hundredths of a degree. That kind of precision leads to effective and long-lasting adjustments that give the body the time it needs to heal from central nervous system problems.

Cost-Effective Care

The combination of precise, long-lasting adjustments and gentle corrections that the body is willing to accept, lead to a less frequent need for maintenance. As atlas adjustments hold longer and longer, patient visits can be spread out, making this a cost-effective form of care.

Upper cervical chiropractors have been specifically trained to find even the slightest misalignments of the C1 and C2 vertebrae. These are the exact misalignments that can lead to changes in central nervous system function and post-concussion syndrome symptoms. Once the spine is properly realigned, many patients notice that symptoms are reduced or eliminated completely, sometimes even from the very first adjustment.

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