Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) symptoms are often difficult to detect. They are also harder to treat, especially if they involve emotional or behavioral changes.
Traditionally, patients were advised to rest completely after a concussion. However, new research shows that light exercise can help the brain recover. Here are some hidden signs if you have lingering concussion symptoms: 1—behavioral changes like aggression.
Symptoms like headaches, dizziness, poor concentration, changes in mood and sleeping patterns, light or noise sensitivity, or a decrease in taste and smell are often signs that a concussion is taking its toll on multiple brain functions. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms for more than three months after a blow to the head.
Headaches from PCS are often described as migraine-like and can last for months or even years. They result from NVC and ANS dysfunction, which impact blood flow dynamics in and out of the brain. They can also include referred pain from the neck and TMJ (jaw problems). Most patients find they are more irritable and anxious with headaches as well.
One night of poor sleep can leave you tired and irritable, but repeated insomnia seriously affects your mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, there are many treatments available for insomnia.
Insomnia is a condition that interferes with getting good restful sleep at night and can cause daytime problems, including fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Insomnia can be triggered by many factors, including stress, anxiety, certain medications, and habits like drinking too much coffee or eating heavy meals late in the day. Often, simply changing these habits can help to alleviate insomnia symptoms. Your healthcare provider can help to identify the causes and recommend the best treatments for you.
Fatigue is a common sign of post concussion syndrome symptoms that can take a long time to show up and be diagnosed. It results from low oxygen, increased acidity, and weak neuromuscular signaling when you have reached your limit and hit a fatigue threshold.
Disrupted sleep, emotional states, stress levels, and a poor diet can also contribute to fatigue. A recent study found that people reporting unexpected symptoms following a concussion were at risk for Functional Neurological Disorder/Somatic Symptom Disorder or exaggeration.
There is no cure for PCS or concussions, but managing symptoms and learning to pace yourself is possible. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet and avoiding sugary drinks that only offer a temporary energy boost can all help.
Dizziness is a common symptom after a concussion. It is more of a sense of disequilibrium and imbalance than the vertigo that results in a spinning sensation.
Specifically describing your dizziness can help you and your doctor narrow down what might be the cause. For instance, if you are feeling light-headed, it may be a sign of low blood sugar.
Knowing possible triggers can also be helpful. Does certain food, exercise or medication make your dizziness worse? Identifying these triggers can help you avoid them in the future. Once your medications wear off, this can prevent a “rebound” of symptoms. If you are experiencing persistent dizziness, ask your healthcare provider about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Memory issues are one of the symptoms of persistent concussion syndrome. People with concussions often forget what happened to them, like where they parked their car. They might also have trouble remembering words or phrases they use frequently.
Most concussion symptoms resolve within 3-6 weeks after the injury. This is likely because the brain goes back to using the best pathways for different processes. However, people with PCS have long-lasting symptoms because the brain continues to use suboptimal paths.
Talking to your doctor if experiencing unexpected neurological and somatic symptoms after a head injury is important. These symptoms could be a sign of serious brain trauma.
Depression is a common sign of post-concussion syndrome. It’s important to seek professional help for depression after a brain injury, especially because it can lead to other issues like anxiety and substance abuse.
The suicides of two NFL football players in 2011 and 2012 brought renewed attention to the link between head trauma and mental health. Researchers have found that people with a history of multiple concussions may be at an increased risk for depression.
Persistent concussion symptoms last long, even months and years after the brain injury. Women, older patients and those with preexisting depression are more likely to have persistent symptoms.