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Types of Concussions

18 December, 2019


Types of Concussions

Approximate reading time: 1-2 minutes

Concussions can present with lots of symptoms. Headaches. Eye strain. Fuzziness. Funny feelings. Trouble sleeping. Foggy head. And a lot more.

Doctors and researchers love to classify and label everything. We call these diagnoses. They help to guide treatment and understand how long you'll take to recover from an injury.

We subdivide concussions into different types based on your symptoms.

Headache & Migraine

This is the most common type in both adults and kids.

Different types of headaches can present after a head injury. For some, it's similar to a migraine.

Maybe you have pain in your neck and jaw as well as your head.

What happens if you already had headaches and migraines before the concussion?

Great question. Well you may notice a change in your headache. It may occur more frequently, more intensely or may be a different pattern.

Vestibular

The tiny balance detectors in our inner eyes - that's our vestibular system.

Vestibular symptoms include dizziness or vertigo, fogginess, lightheadedness, loss of balance or nausea. These feelings can cause some anxiety understandably.

Typically things feel worse with movement. Dynamic movements challenges the vestibular pathways.

Special tests can be done. Balance, reflexive movements and walking are common assessed. Don't worry if you feel off center. That's common and there's always someone there to give you support.

Eyes

Technically this is called oculo-motor. Ocular is the eyes and motor is movement.

The visual system is involved in sight, focusing the eyes, coordinating eye movement and processing the visual scene. It's quite sophisticated when you think about it like that.

Having difficulty with screens, driving and reading is common. You may also have eye strain & fatigue, frontal headaches, difficulty focusing, nausea and difficulties judging distances.

That's full on. It can make it hard to concentrate and get work done.

Cognitive

You may have difficulties concentrating or paying attention. Your thoughts and behaviours seem a little odd - they are disorganised and require a lot more effort.

Working memory and memory retrieval can cause issues too.

You feel slowed down. Maybe unable to exactly identify what's going on. But it just doesn't feel right.

Anxiety & Mood

Exasperated or new feelings of nervousness, sadness, anger, irritability or hopelessness. You might feel on high alert. Your head is spinning with thoughts. It's tiring to experience.

Sometimes these symptoms are caused by the concussion. Other times it's a consequence of other injury-related symptoms.

This is more common in those with pre-injury anxiety and migraines or if it's a stressful time when you get concussed.

As well as ...

Just when you thought that was enough to deal with.

Concussions frequently coexist with sleep issues and neck disorders.

Sleep Disturbances

Sleeping too much. Or not at all.

It can be hard to get to sleep. When you finally do, you wake up frequently.

Your sleeping issues occur because of the brain injury but can be exaggerated by your other symptoms. Your vertigo may make it hard to fall asleep, as an example.

Neck Strain

Tightness, stiffness, pain and weakness in the neck and uppers can occur after a concussion.

The strained neck then sends funky messages up to the brain. This interferes with coordination, vestibular reflexes and visual stability.


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About the Author

Cassie is the senior chiropractor at Body & Brain Centre. She's trained in neurofeedback, QEEG functional brain scans and chiropractic neuro-rehabilitation, which includes vestibular therapy. She frequently works alongside psychologists and other health practitioners when working with post concussion headaches, dizziness and neck pain


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  • Seifert T (2018). The relationship of migraine and other headache disorders to concussion. Handb Clin Neurol. 2018;158:119-126. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63954-7.00012-4.