Did you know that most concussions are supposed to heal within 2-4 weeks?
At our office, that’s just one of the reason’s we make athletes (especially student athletes) sit out for at least those 2-4 weeks depending on their examination findings before returning to practice and play, and why they’re put on limitations in the classroom. Also, did you know that within 6 hours or so of a concussion, you develop leaky gut, which means your digestive system starts failing to break down foods and it irritates your digestive system and immune system. This is scary.
Most people think when concussion symptoms disappear that they’re healed from the concussion, which is a traumatic brain injury, although a “mild one”. However, the majority of the time this is not the case, and the healing hasn’t finished yet. There is more going on inside the brain than meets the eye, and it involves inflammation, pre-existing conditions, hormones and the rest of the endocrine system, the immune system, the nervous system, and by default the musculoskeletal system.
One of the most important pieces of concussion education is understanding inflammation. Inflammation is the reason we are so concerned with the first 2-4 weeks of a concussion and in our minds, we think about microglial cell activity.
Microglial cells are the immune system cells of the brain and there are about 10x more “glial” cells in the brain than there are neurons. That’s a big number. They have the ability to be good and bad, but in the case of concussion and mTBI it’s an enormous consideration when the dial has been turned to “bad” after a concussion and they create ongoing inflammation. Microglial cells or “glial cells” are basically the cells that clean up all the mess after a concussion, and they typically should turn off within 2-4 weeks on their own (ie the inflammation is shut off), but will continue to clean up everything in their paths (even healthy nerve tissue) if they don’t get turned off.
If there’s any pre-existing conditions before the mTBI or during the initial recovery stages then that 2-4 weeks of inflammation may all of a sudden turn into 8 weeks, 16 weeks or even years of inflammation and symptoms. That person who’s been “cleared” based on symptoms is in for a whole world of hurt if they try to return to their previous activities that are creating said inflammation, let alone try to play the contact sport where they became injured before they’re fully recovered. Getting a 2nd or 3rd concussion while you’re recovering from the first is one of the worst case scenarios someone can face.
Imagine, you get a concussion, microglial cells are going crazy, inflammation is extremely high, and you’re released back to play in your sport, have an extremely stressful test, or are eating unhealthy or inflammatory foods within 1 week following your “concussion” and before you’re done healing. What do you think is going to happen to your glial cells and subsequent inflammation if you hit your head again or eat a food that increases inflammation in your body? Will it be a good thing? Or will it make those glial cells stay on longer and create more inflammation that then becomes harder to turn off? The answer is,”it will create more inflammation, inflammation will stay elevated longer and it will make it harder to turn off the brain inflammation that has occurred” thus creating Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). PCS is the diagnosis given when concussion symptoms last longer than 3-6 months.
Most of the patients we see in office have typically had this entire scenario occur and their health has resulted in Post Concussion Syndrome.
At ACNC, in order to determine what each patient needs we perform a thorough investigation and begin to address inflammation, nutrition, leaky gut, nervous system dysfunction, endocrine abnormalities, immune abnormalities and screen them for pre-existing conditions, inflammatory foods and infections diseases that will keep them from getting better. If your doctor is not doing this, then you need to find one that will.
I will be following up on the inner workings of inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction as it relates to concussion and mTBI in future posts.
We have a specific program designed to identify and correct each component and we have been quite successful in helping PCS patients in the past. If you have any questions, email [email protected] or post your questions below.