Tammy, not her real name, came to me 10 months after a car accident. She was having trouble with school. She couldn’t focus for longer than 15 minutes at a time. That’s difficult when you are attending a top-ranked liberal arts university. Her medical doctors had told her rest would make everything better. There were medications that could help. She refused, not wanting to take pharmaceuticals. Her mother had found me online and made an appointment for her daughter to see me for concussion treatment. Six weeks later she was back to her regular self. School was going well, sleep had improved, anxiety disappeared, her headaches abated. Recover from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is possible without pharmaceuticals. How do you treat concussion? How do you see so much change without drugs? To understand this, it is important to explore more about TBI. What is it? What symptoms arise from it? By answering these questions we begin to get a better idea of how to treat.
Six years ago, I wrote an article about concussions and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The statistics were sobering; they still are. TBI affects millions of people every year. TBI can affects not just the brain. It can create physical, behavior, emotional, and mental problems. Many people don’t even realize that their health problems may have started with a TBI. There are many ways people get injured. The CDC estimates that there are around 3.5 million ER visits yearly due to TBI. Falls, sports-related injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and being struck in the head by an object are some of the leading causes of TBI. Some researchers believe the number may be much higher than that. There may be as much as 4 times that many TBIs than the CDC count.
What these numbers don’t tell are that many people live with the consequences of a TBI long after the event. Between 3-5 million Americans live with an impairment related to a TBI. TBI can create long term problems. Cognitive issues, including focus, concentration and memory are associated with concussion. But most of the people who come to see me don’t even recognize that there was injury such as Jessica. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, migraines, and fatigue may all start with a TBI. Most people come to me because of one of those problems, not because of a concussion.
There are other health risks associated with TBI. Not long ago, the idea of TBI or concussion was such that it had to be severe to have any long term consequences. We are learning that even a mild concussion can create long-term severe consequences. Head trauma, even from minor incidents, can cause a wide range of mental, emotional, and/or physical ailments. Dementia risk appears to be greater as well. Living with the effects of a TBI can be devastating. Shocking stories abound of how former professional football players and veterans take their own or others lives. Millions of others live with the long-term effects without any of the fanfare. They just have the struggle. I (and others) have helped people recover from TBI. And that recovery is safe, effective, inexpensive, and non-invasive.
How do you treat a concussion?
I am working on a more detailed article to describe treatment of these problems. For now let me give a brief overview. Treatment comes in two different modalities, supplementation and biofeedback. Supplementation can handle some of the symptoms and may reverse the damage. Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin B6, and Omega-3s are all helpful for post-concussion syndrome. Long-term supplementation may be able to reverse the damage of the TBI. I use supplementation with most of my patients with TBI. I may also use specific supplements to treat specific problems related to the TBI, including sleep issues or anxiety. This allows for symptom relief while unwinding the damage related to the injury.
Biofeedback though provides a more direct approach to helping TBI and treatment concussion. Neurofeedback measures the brain waves of a person and allows the brain to, in effect, see itself to recognize that there was an injury. A brain injury can result in the brain not recognizing that it has an injury. This is why I often see patients who don’t remember they had an injury but have many of the problems associated with a TBI.
Neurofeedback appears to turn back on the brain’s own repair mechanisms. Studies show that neurofeedback is effective treating TBI. And it can also be helpful for anxiety, depression, migraines, insomnia, ADHD, and other conditions.
Neurofeedback is only one treatment for TBI. New research is showing that Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training can treat TBI. HRV training is a form of biofeedback. HRV is the measurement in subtle changes in heart rate between beats. Our heart beats at a different rates from moment to moment when we are resting. HRV is an excellent health assessment tool. Some researchers suggest that HRV may be the single biggest predictor of health in a person. Our HRV tends to decrease as we get older with a large drop as one nears death.
Furthermore, HRV may be a way to calculate the progress of treatment of the TBI. HRV seems to change after a TBI. HeartMath helps reduce emotional symptoms related to TBI. HeartMath is a tool for concussions and for helping with many other conditions. HeartMath offers a home version of the device that allows patients to use on their own. I can review the data and assess their progress.
I’m excited to have another tool for treatment and assessment in my practice. If you or someone you know has had even a mild knock to the head, have them evaluated. Even if you don’t remember having a concussion but have some of the symptoms, get checked. A qualified healthcare professional can help. Neurofeedback and supplementation may be able to help the problem that you are having.
Feel free to call my office for more information.