A Day In The Life With Post-Concussion Syndrome

A Day In The Life With Post-Concussion Syndrome

Whenever we hear about concussions, we often think about athletes. Football and hockey stars who get in the thick of things and play rough. However, the reality is that concussions happen to ordinary people every day. They can be caused by something as simple as slipping on an icy sidewalk, bumping your head on the underside of an open cupboard, or leaning back too fast in bed and hitting your head against your headboard. We’re still learning a great deal about concussions, and as such, treatment is often not taken seriously enough, by physicians or patients. As a result, more damage is caused to the brain, resulting in post-concussion syndrome (PCS).

A concussion refers to any mild head injury, no matter the cause. In the minutes and hours after a concussion, symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, double or blurred vision, confusion, and memory loss. In the days immediately following a concussion, symptoms can include fatigue, ongoing confusion, lack of focus, and mood changes. Theoretically, the concussion itself can heal within a couple of days. However, if treatment is not handled carefully and the person returns to their normal daily routine too quickly, this can lead to PCS.

PCS differs from a concussion in that it’s not the head injury itself, but rather potentially long-term symptoms exacerbated by inadequate care immediately following the initial injury. It’s assumed that 50% of people who suffer a concussion will experience PCS symptoms approximately one month following the initial injury, while 15% will continue to experience PCS symptoms for up to or beyond a year. These symptoms can include cognitive impairment, mood and personality changes, depression, anxiety, emotional blunting, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, photophobia, phonophobia, vertigo, balance problems, nausea, and migraines, to name only a few.    

It is a debilitating condition the treatment of which is lonely and isolating. Depending on the severity of symptoms, such as nausea, medication such as Gravol can be invaluable and taken for as long as the symptoms persist. Refraining from too much stimulation, physical or cognitive, is important, as this is a time to let your brain rest and heal. Put simply, this means spending a lot of time alone, limited to no reading, limiting overly-stimulating conversations, no complex cooking, limited physical exertion like walking, and absolutely no multitasking. Or at least as little as is feasible. Research also suggests that those with a greater understanding of the condition have quicker recovery rates, so getting help in learning about PCS can be invaluable. Being surrounded by those who understand the condition, as well, can be a huge help. It often takes a village, and when it comes to PCS recovery, that is the time to ask for as much help as possible.

Concussion Ontario is an invaluable resource with guidelines for all ages on how to recover from your head injury, including this guide for adults. There are also support groups available for those looking to connect with others who have had similar experiences.

At the end of the day, concussions and PCS are scary. The recovery process is lonely and isolating, and the lack of public awareness regarding the condition can lead to misinformation. But it’s important to remember that by slowing down, taking rest seriously, and limiting any and all stimulation, you will recover, and you will feel like the same person again.

 

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