By: Teresa Hall, PT, DPT, OCS
Do you know what the number-ONE predictor of a longer recovery from a concussion is? Surprisingly, it’s not vomiting, headache, or even loss of consciousness. Most people don’t realize that dizziness immediately after a head injury indicates a longer recovery process.
The reason that dizziness is so common and difficult to recover from is that it often involves the vestibular system, meaning that the dizziness is caused by something more than just having spun in too many circles. The vestibular system comprises the organs and nerves in your inner ears that help to control your equilibrium. It’s obviously important that this system be working correctly because we rely on our equilibrium to maintain balance and spatial orientation.
Sometimes a victim of a concussion will hit his or her head so hard that the microscopic crystals in the inner ear will get knocked loose. Once the crystals are loose, they can get stuck in the wrong part of the inner ear and cause positional vertigo. This condition causes severe, room-spinning vertigo, nausea, and loss of balance – it affects our equilibrium.
Another common occurrence after a concussion is that the nerve pathways from the vestibular system to the brain suffer trauma. Then the communication system is impaired, and this causes a mismatch of information between the ears, the eyes, and the brain’s response for balance. Often, people with this injury will avoid moving their heads and avoid situations where their balance may be challenged.
Most vestibular symptoms following a concussion can be cured and improved by a course of physical therapy, more specifically from a therapist who specializes in vestibular rehab. They are well trained in these conditions, and proper rehabilitation will make a huge difference in the time and quality of recovery from a concussion.
For more information on vestibular care after a concussion, contact our vestibular PTs at firstname.lastname@example.org.