Post Concussion Syndrome, Dizziness, Splitting Headaches, Severe Sound Sensitivity, Anxiety and Cortisol
When I asked her to describe her dizziness, she said,“it feels like rocking, especially when I lie down for bed.”
She described it like this,”You know when people lie down in bed at the end of the day and they feel “ahhhh”, that comforting feeling of lying in bed? Well when I lie down I feel like my world starts rocking back and forth. It sucks. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in almost 3 years since my injury.”
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This is just one of the many common complaints we hear from patients when obtaining a history after they’ve sustained a concussion. In this particular case, she had been suffering from severe symptoms of sound sensitivity, splitting headaches, dizziness, and insomnia as the main complaints.
She’s seen approximately 5-7 other practitioners over the course of the past 3 years before visiting our functional neurology office located in Chandler, AZ. Some of them helped, and some did not seem to help at all.
When I asked,”If you could estimate your total % of function at this point, how would you rate it?”. Her and her husband looked at each other and said, “probably about 50%”. When I asked her to elaborate on that comment, she said that basically her whole family caters to her needs, she can’t visit friends and family without the sound of everything getting on her nerves and triggering her symptoms. She can’t watch TV or Movies anymore and she even mentioned that it seems to have affected her immediate family relationships.
Now, post concussion syndrome doesn’t “just happen”. It is somewhat like an explosion. When explosions happen, usually there is some type of chemical present that is flammable and a trauma is introduced that ignites this chemical, which then explodes. It can be pressure or a spark, but something ignites this flammable chemical.
Similar to the explosion is what happens to create post concussion syndrome. When I look back at all the concussion cases we’ve seen, there’s a similar history PRIOR to the concussion itself. The concussion aka the trauma, is what ignites the inflammatory chemicals that end up cascading into an explosion in the brain, not always the concussion itself. Usually the concussion heals within 3-5 weeks, but when it doesn’t, it means that something else is lurking under the surface creating “flammable chemicals”.
With each patient we must ask about their prior history; stress levels, family and work relationships, any previous traumas or concussions, autoimmunity, gut health, prior conditions, and so on.
In this particular case there was quite a heavy burden of family relationship stressors. Without going too far into details, let’s just say this person had a long history of loss, issues with grieving these losses, communication issues with their children and unresolved daily conflict in their lives.
The reason I ask about stressors, is that stress activates our sympathetic centers in the brain. Sympathetic basically is our Fight or Flight system, whereas the parasympathetic system is our Rest and Digest system.
Stress also releases the hormone Cortisol.
There are a few main jobs of Cortisol. The first job is to dampen inflammation in the acute stages. However when stress aka Cortisol is present long term it can lead to major inflammatory chemicals flooding the brain and body on a daily basis.
Another job of Cortisol is to increase blood sugar. It does this by releasing blood sugar from the liver (gluconeogenesis). This is supposed to happen in the short term and is normal, however when the body perceives chronic stressors in its life, blood sugar is chronically liberated from the liver leading to additional factors of insulin resistance and further cardiovascular and brain based inflammation.
At the same time stress activates the Amygdala in the brain. This is our fear center. This particular part of the brain is so powerful that it can immediately change our heart rate, make us sweat, constrict our blood vessels, and change the way we think from conversation mode into survival mode. It also activates the Hippocampus together with the Amygdala. The Hippocampus is our memory center. It is designed like this so that we can remember a threat.
Fast forward 3 weeks.
The patient is feeling better energy than she has in the last 3 years, her headaches have improved, her dizziness has drastically improved, and we have been discussing the Top-Down approach to managing some of the anxiety and stressors surrounding her family communications with eye movements, breathing, and other neurological exercises. She is realizing that she CAN control some of her own thoughts by re-framing these thoughts into a less stressful, or a non-stressful “category”.
Yes it CAN happen this quick.
Find out if we can help you and schedule your initial evaluation today!