Aug 20

What is a concussion?


What is a concussion?

A concussion is an injury to the brain or spinal cord typically caused by some form of impact resulting in the movement of the brain inside of the skull. A growing number of incidences are occurring especially among athletes, children, and young adults. Symptoms from a concussion often vary from person to person. These may include:

  • confusion
  • visual acuity problems
  • memory loss
  • slowed cognitive processing
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • balance deficits
  • jaw pain or clicking

Often, concussions can resolve on their own if the brain has time to rest and fully recover, usually taking a period of 1-3 weeks. Rest is the first stage to recovery.

Sometimes, however,  symptoms from a concussion can linger, and new manifestations of symptoms can occur as a result of  the trauma to the neck and head following the incident. This prolonged experience of unresolved symptoms is called Post-Concussion Syndrome. In these cases, vestibular rehabilitation treatment by a physical therapist can help pave the road to recovery.

When issues occur within the vestibular system, whether  as a result of concussion or disease, a person may experience dizziness, balance, and coordination deficits.  The brain then tries to compensate for the lack of information or misinterpreted signals it receives from the vestibular system. For instance, the brain may become overly dependent on visual input to influence body movement. Altered body mechanics to improve postural control and modified movement patterns of the head and neck to avoid dizziness and vertigo can occur. These compensation techniques delay functional improvement of the vestibular system and may even cause worsening of symptoms such as headaches, muscle fatigue, and joint pain.

Vestibular rehabilitation treatment can help retrain the brain to rely on information from the vestibular system in conjunction with oculomotor and proprioceptive inputs to reduce dizziness, and improve balance, coordination, and postural control.


 At Tillman Physical Therapy, treating  PCS with vestibular rehabilitation begins with a thorough examination to observe and measure movement and postural compensation strategies. Depending on these observations, an individualized treatment and exercise plan is designed that incorporates oculomotor exercises, proprioceptive training, postural control, and balance activities.  These treatments help the brain recognize and interpret signals from the vestibular system and integrate them with other sensory systems of the body. Additionally, in some instances, a canalith repositioning procedure (a series of specific head and body positioning techniques) may be necessary to reposition otoconia of the inner ear that have been displaced as a result of the injury. Proper placement of the otoconia plays an important role in dizziness reduction and improved balance. Once these sensory systems are retrained to work together optimally, the body is able to regain function, allowing for  safe sport specific training.

If you’ve experienced a concussion, check with your doctor to see if you may benefit from vestibular rehabilitation. At Tillman Physical Therapy, we are dedicated to helping you achieve a quicker and safer return to daily function and sports specific activities.