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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Recovery from Concussions: Cranial Osteopathy Restores Brain Function, Reduces Recovery Time

Jun 06, 2016 03:34PM ● By David Johnston

Will Smith plays a brilliant forensic pathologist in the Concussion movie, embarking on a mission to raise public awareness about the dangers of football-related head trauma. He discovers chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurological deterioration of the brain—similar to Alzheimer’s disease—which comes as a result of repetitive brain trauma. This condition is not just in the movies, nor does it only occur in professional level sports such as with National Football League players. Boxing, martial arts, ice hockey, soccer or any activity involving repeated blows to the head and neck are risky for brain trauma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur each year. Caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, a concussion—considered a traumatic brain injury (TBI)—is most common in active children and teenagers. It can happen to adults and recovery may take longer for an older person. While most people do not lose consciousness following a concussion, there are often signs of mental confusion. Most patients with mild concussions recover in a few days, but as many as 15 percent suffer symptoms for a longer period of time.

Post-concussion symptoms can include headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, confusion or inability to focus, memory loss or cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbance, coordination and motor skill difficulties, sensitivity to light or noise, slurred or incoherent speech, irritability or anxiety, depression, and loss of consciousness.

What can be done to treat concussions?

The hardest part for a person who has injured their head to understand is how important it is to rest. The brain has been injured and its function has been compromised; it takes time to heal.

Cranial osteopathy is one of the therapies that can help restore brain function while reducing recovery time and long-term side effects after a concussion. This therapy, performed by an osteopathic physician, includes a system of hands-on manipulation of the bones and tissues aimed at restoring the body back to health. An osteopath will work on the dura mater, which is one of the protective layers around the spinal cord that also cushions the brain inside the skull. Other osteopathic techniques include gently manipulating the cranial bones at the base of the skull and on the head around the ears. One goal with these techniques is to restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the central nervous system, which promotes healing. Skilled osteopaths can feel the rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid and neurological activity in the body with their hands and through light, gentle palpation.

Concussion Recovery Recommendations 

To reduce recovery time from concussions, physicians recommend these things:

Rest: The patient should rest the brain, body and emotions with sleep and limited noise or bright light for the first 24-48 hours after the diagnosis. This also means staying home from school or work and refraining from physical activity and sports. Most are recommended to restrict activity for 7-10 days.

Undergo osteopathic manipulation (OMT): An osteopathic physician will use OMT to work on and adjust the muscles the patient needs to relax. This helps get the fluids and blood moving in the body, and helps the respiratory and nervous systems so the body can adjust and overcome the damage incurred by the concussion.

Hydrate: A concussion happens when fluid to the brain isn’t moving, so patients should drink more liquids, especially water.

Carb load. After a concussion, a brain is “starving” for energy. It needs quick fuel—such as multigrain breads and pastas—so it can recover.

Be evaluated by a physician every two-three days after the incident: During follow-up visits with the doctor, the patient may undergo additional OMT to ensure the body is healing as efficiently as possible.

It is important to seek immediate medical attention after a blow to the head or neck or a suspected concussion. For some reason, those who have already had one concussion are more susceptible to having another. For those who experience persistent difficulties after a concussion, such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep disturbances, or dropping grades in school, an effective treatment plan will often combine osteopathic treatment, neurofeedback, re-education, cognitive rehabilitation, psychological support, natural remedies and supplements and, in some cases, medication.

David Johnston, DO, is a board-certified osteopathic physician in neuromusculoskeletal medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine, and a Diplomate with the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. He holds additional certifications in cranial osteopathy. He practices at the Osteopathic Wellness Center, located at 158 Danbury Rd, Ridgefield. Contact him at or 203-438-9915.

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