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Concussion Treatment: The Autonomic Nervous System – The Missing Piece?

There are many articles, a wealth of information and numerous opinions available on the topic of Concussion Treatment.

Most treatment revolves around the physical aspect of the trauma. Whilst this is essential, there are other aspects that should be considered.

The Autonomic Nervous System

Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injuries result in a complex process that has a systemic effect on the body. In particular, there is an impact on the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).

The ANS controls the automatic, unconscious processes in our body such as heart and respiration rate, blood pressure and digestion. It also controls our being in a state of relaxation or of fight / flight.

Dysregulation of the ANS has been shown to trigger an inflammatory response, arrhythmias (irregular heart beat / palpitations), depressed immune system, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety, as well as being a factor in psychiatric disorders.

It may also contribute to generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders or a tendency to be over-reactive to external or internal stressors.

More information on Autonomic Dysfunction after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5575620/

Conventional Concussion Treatment

Conventional concussion treatment usually involves the following pieces, and will be complemented by the addition of the above modalities to address ANS dysfunction

  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Manual Therapy – Massage, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Physiotherapy
  • Diet and Nutrition – reduce inflammation and feed the body and brain
  • Vision and Vestibular rehabilitation
  • Professional emotional support, Counselling and Talk Therapies

More info on standard treatment approaches can be found on these websites:

http://www.braininjuries.org/

https://completeconcussions.com/2016/06/29/top-5-evidence-based-treatment-concussion/

And in this article about rehabilitation for concussion:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387881/

Concussion Treatment: The Missing Piece?

Dysfunction in the Autonomic Nervous system impacts so many aspects of our health. Providing treatments and strategies to address this is essential for complete healing to occur. The ANS needs to calmed and brought back into a state of homeostasis in order for all other systems of the body to function normally.

What can be done?

There are many ways to address the dysfunction. Every person is an individual and may need one or more approaches.

Sleep

Probably the most important! Making sure to rest when needed, to go to bed at a reasonable time and to sleep as long as your body needs. Try to make your bedroom dark, quiet and not too warm. Remove all electronics from the room and stop using them at least 2hrs prior to going to bed.

In addition, allowing space and giving yourself permission to nap whenever required can be extremely beneficial.

Mindfulness and meditation

Working to calm the mind, to bring focus and to take time to consciously slow the breathing affects the body in a profound way. It can bring the ANS into a state of rest and digest. Breathing techniques such as Somatic breathwork can be used at any time throughout the day to bring a sense of calm.

Meditation: there are many approaches and styles so find the one that works for you. You can introduce a daily practice starting with a few minutes, use an app, or go to a class.

Yoga

If done correctly yoga is an exercise in breathing, mindfulness, and a form of meditation as well a physical practice. Choose a teacher who is sympathetic to your limitations and always work within your own comfort level. It is not a competition, there will always be someone in the class who is more flexible or more agile than you.

You may wish to seek out a teacher offering private yoga classes who can provide a program that is tailored to your unique needs. I recommend Michael Dynie in Ottawa.

Energy Healing

There are many Energy Healing modalities such as Reiki, Pranic Healing and Chakra Balancing. They all work with the energy in your body and bring a deep sense of relaxation. They can also work on a deeper level to release the shock and trauma of your injury from the subconscious and your body.

Massage and Reflexology

Although massage is usually thought of as a physical treatment for the soft tissues of the body, it can be highly affective for calming the nervous system. Reflexology also brings deep relaxation.

Conclusion

Anyone suffering from concussion or traumatic brain injury may benefit from the addition of modalities to calm the ANS and bring about a state of homeostasis. In particular, where a more convention treatment protocol is not bringing results and healing, this may be the missing piece.

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