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Post-Concussion Syndrome – Definition, Symptoms, Treatment

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Posted on August 7, 2013

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can vary greatly in type and severity. Concussions are the most common type of brain injury and also possess their respective degrees of severity and effects. Concussions result from a non-penetrating blow or impact to the skull. The brain can collide with the inside surface of the skull or can compress and expand rapidly, resulting in bruising, contusions, bleeding, and injuries on a cellular level.

Concussions can be mild, moderate, or severe, generally judged by symptoms. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a disorder in which a combination of varying symptoms (such as dizziness or headaches) persists for weeks or months beyond the initial injury. PCS is generally the designation medical professionals give to post concussion symptoms that last beyond the initial days following the injury. Not all people who experience a concussion will suffer from post-concussion syndrome.

Post-Concussion Syndrome – Diagnosis and Symptoms

PCS is a generalized condition and experienced differently from patient to patient. Studies have revealed that patients who have a previous history of head trauma, young patients, or those with a known history of headaches or migraines are more susceptible to experiencing PCS symptoms.

Diagnosing post-concussion syndrome is difficult, as there is no definitive test for the condition. Diagnosis is loosely based on the patient’s history of previous TBI and claims of ongoing symptoms. A doctor will typically conduct a physical exam and a neurological exam, and may also order an imaging test such as a CT scan or MRI to rule out other causes of symptoms such as infection, poisoning, or bleeding in the brain.

For most concussion patients, PCS symptoms begin within the first seven to 10 days and fade away within six to nine weeks, though there have been cases of symptoms persisting for three to six months. In a few rare instances, PCS symptoms did not dissipate until 11 to 12 months had passed. Symptoms of PCS can be non-specific and commonly include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with Sleeping
  • Mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety
  • Difficulty with cognition and memory

PCS symptoms can be severe enough to interfere with work, especially for jobs requiring hours of computer screen time or jobs requiring the operation of heavy machinery.

Treatment Options for PCS

Most PCS treatment is geared toward alleviating symptoms. The majority of patients who experience PCS are able to recover with plenty of rest in a low stress environment. The treating physician or neurologist may also prescribe migraine or pain medications and treat psychological symptoms with a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Additional non-medicinal treatments, such a Matrix Repatterning, may help to shorten the duration of PCS symptoms.

Symptoms do fade with time, but the patient must take steps to reduce the stress from his/her daily environment and dedicated consistent time to resting, sleeping, and avoiding noise. Patients with a history of head injuries may wish to plan in advance and make adjustments in anticipation of PCS if he/she happens to experience another concussion. Multiple-concussion patients are more susceptible, so even a recurrence of a very mild concussion could trigger a period of considerable PCS symptoms.

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