The hidden aftermath of minor TBIs: Post-concussion syndrome and how you can recover

A woman lying in bed suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome

Most likely, you’ll already be familiar with concussion, but how often have you heard about post-concussion syndrome?

The chances are, not very – but that’s completely understandable.

For whilst concussion is a fixture in our general day to day vocabulary (mainly through its prevalence in minor and sometimes serious accidents), the term post-concussion syndrome is very rarely mentioned.

Nor is it fully understood.

Here we take a look at the silent aftermath that can – and does – affect many people after they have suffered from one of the UK’s most widespread injuries and the ways to help your recovery.

What is it?

Basically, post-concussion syndrome is when someone exhibits one or more unpleasant and potentially debilitating complications after a concussion.

It can last for either a relatively short or an extended period of time, but this can vary considerably from person to person.

Though that’s not to say that it happens every single time somebody experiences a concussion. In fact, that’s one of the condition’s curiosities.

Medical experts are still somewhat confounded as to why some people escape the effects of post-concussion syndrome whereas others severely suffer from its impact.

To understand post-concussion syndrome more, it’s first necessary to look at concussion itself.

What is concussion?

Concussion is classified as a type of mild traumatic brain injury.

Generally, it’s a temporary condition where an impact to the head (or somewhere else on the body) causes the brain to be jolted against the skull.

In most cases, any after-effects tend to fade away after a relatively short period of time, possibly after a few days or weeks, but the person should be continually monitored in case it has caused any further and potentially lethal injuries, such as bleeding in the brain or clotting.

You don't have to be knocked unconscious to become concussed, and there are a variety of ways in which concussion may affect someone; yes it often causes a loss of consciousness, but it can also cause vision problems, nausea or dizziness.

What are the specific effects of post-concussion syndrome?

Post-concussion syndrome may cause you to experience physical complications, psychological and mental processing impairments, or a mixture of each at once.

Physical problems that sufferers may complain of include:

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

  • Weakness

  • Strong headaches

  • Tinnitus

  • High sensitivity to light and sound

  • Vomiting

And psychological or mental impairment problems may include:

  • Poor concentration

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Lethargy

  • In some extreme cases, a noticeable or even drastic change of personality and behaviour

Though there are a range of symptoms, an injured person is unlikely to suffer from every single possible after-effect and the permutations of the condition will differ from case to case.

Post-concussion syndrome has the potential to completely subside within several weeks, but it can just as easily remain present for over a year. Unfortunately, there is no way that this can be predicted.

And although PCS can happen to anyone, it appears to affect women in more cases than men and their symptoms can be considerably more pronounced.

Why isn’t post-concussion syndrome well known?

Somewhat curiously, there is some serious debate as to why post-concussion syndrome even happens, and the fact that the condition is so hard to define may explain why it is little-known, or at least so often misunderstood.

For almost two centuries, medical professionals have been concerned about the way it can affect certain people whilst others can completely escape it.

And there have even been instances where people who haven’t even experienced a minor TBI have exhibited the same symptoms.

In such cases, severe depression and anxiety have been considered the two most likely causes of the condition.

Despite this debate and confusion, if you have experienced a minor TBI and are experiencing these symptoms there is help available.

How can post-concussion syndrome be treated?

There is no single specific way to treat post-concussion syndrome, so it's much more common for treatment to be tailored to each individual.

Different types of medication and treatment may be trialled, refined and replaced until improvement is shown.

For example, standard migraine medication has shown to have positive results on people who have suffered from piercing and unrelenting headaches.

In others, there have been beneficial results through adjustments to their diet, paying particular attention to vitamin and nutrition intake.

Complete rest is often very successful as it helps to keep any levels of stress to as low a level as possible, and restricting the level of any activity that requires even a modicum of concentration gives the brain a chance to recover.

Getting regular but not over-excessive sleep is encouraged, as is the reduction of caffeine intake.

There are many potential avenues to explore as you look to aid your recovery, and that is why it is important to seek guidance as and when you need it.

Why you should seek the help you need

With so few people having heard of post-concussion syndrome, you may feel you’re suffering alone with the condition.

Be rest assured, that is not the case.

It's unnecessary to simply accept this often painful, debilitating and long-lasting condition in silence, and it is hugely important that you get help if you have any of these symptoms.

The validity of the condition may be in question by certain scholars and professionals, but you are the one who is experiencing its relentless and frustrating symptoms, so do not hesitate to speak up.

Seek out medical professionals who will provide you with access to medication and treatment. If you have had legal representation for your traumatic brain injury, ask for guidance from your lawyer.

Talk it through with friends and family to educate them and garner greater understanding.

You may also find solace in online support group communities on forums such as Neuro Talk where there will be many people in similar situations.

Some may have been through exactly what you’re experiencing and come through the other side to tell the tale.

Overall, people are good at heart, and they're ready to give you the free advice and comfort that you need.

Enjoy this article? Please share it! Thanks!