When Post-Concussion Syndrome Develops

A visual representation of what goes on in your brain with post concussion syndrome!

What is post concussion syndrome to me? Post concussion syndrome is a bug that reaks havoc on your brain, setting off bombs of headaches and drops of depression & anxiety on a consistent daily basis. This bug not only tinkers with your brain, but also your eyes and ears, making the slightest sound and softest light piercing to the eye and ear. If post-concussion syndrome were a person it would be ‘Mr. Mayhem’ from the popular AllState commercial, PCS reeks havoc on your life unexpectedly and can disrupt your closest relationships. It attacks you physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Post-Concussion Syndrome is a condition that develops after you have had a concussion for more than the average duration of 1-2 months. If you find yourself with lasting symptoms, you will find yourself in a very dangerous area. You see, when post-concussion syndrome develops it becomes difficult for the brain to return to how it once was prior to the initial injury. As symptoms continue to last you may find yourself in a vicious cycle of progressing and regressing. This is where I found myself to be. For a week or so I’d feel better and then BOOM I’d have a setback and symptoms would arise and force me to my bed. Many articles will say that you should just continue to rest and over time your symptoms will just magically disappear. But this is something that didn’t just happen for me, no matter how much I rested my symptoms would stay with no change. If you find yourself in the same situation, then this post is for you.

Maybe the secret to overcoming post concussion syndrome isn’t solely in resting and waiting, perhaps the secret to recovering is in retraining your body to become reacquainted with normal environments and conditions. The Sports Medicine Clinic at UPCM Pittsburgh utilizes this type of recovery treatment in their patients. It is called “Expose & Recovery”, in which patients are encouraged to expose themselves to uncomfortable situations and environments, to rest, and then try again. This technique allows for the brain to become more familiar with the stimuli, so that over time it is able to handle it with no problem. So, when post-concussion syndrome develops you literally have to retrain your brain to familiarize itself with normal environments and activities again.

I unintentionally started using this technique. After I had had a concussion for about 5 months, school had ended, I had graduated and I needed some cash to help pay for college. At this point I had been completing my ‘Expose to Recovery’ workouts, and could tolerate loud and bright environments to an extent, for maybe 30 minutes or so, before getting a moderate headache. This was a significant improvement from where I was earlier in my recovery. I decided to go back to work. I had been employed for some time at the YMCA as a nursery attendant. I felt nervous and uncomfortable about going back, because I feared overexerting myself. I told my boss of my condition and she put me on the schedule for 3 days per week for 4 hours each day, but assured me if anything became too much that I could go home.

The YMCA is fluorescently lit in every single facility in the building, I worked with kids so especially over the Summer it could become unbelievably loud and hectic at any given moment. I knew that it would be challenging, especially knowing that I would not be able to protect myself with sunglasses or earplugs. Each day varied. Starting out I ended up having unbelievably intense headaches to the point that I couldn’t even finish the shift. I would go home rest and then try again and again. It wasn’t that I was working too much or overexerting myself, my brain was just not used to being under fluorescent lights without protection, so it took some time to adjust. After about the fourth week of doing this, I was attending work with no problems. By the end of the summer I even added a few more shifts. I was conquering fluorescent lights for the first time in my entire concussion recovery.

“Expose and Recovery” is a technique that I really do believe works. The anxienty and fear that you may have towards this is real and I understand. But, it is important that you give your brain the opportunity to retrain and reprogram itself.

SO! In conclusion, we all know post concussion syndrome is a complete jerk, but when fought the right way you CAN overcome it.

Happy Healing Everybody,

Nicole