In post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a patient with a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) experiences persistent symptoms from the injury. The symptoms might last months, years, or even decades after the event if left untreated.
Whenever we hold a new patient consultation, we discuss the medicine and supplements that patient has been taking for concussion symptoms. We see a variety of medications for concussion that doctors throughout the U.S. and Europe are prescribing. We also see if they’ve been helping or hindering our patients.
If you notice symptoms after a concussion, it’s best not to wait to seek treatment. If you’re the type to “wait it out” and see if things get better, then we recommend waiting no longer than three months. After that, it is very unlikely your symptoms will improve, so it makes sense to pursue active rehabilitation of concussion and post-concussion syndrome (especially if those symptoms interfere with your everyday life).
The medical community can be painfully slow to adopt best practices, and concussion care is no exception. Many doctors and clinics recommend “cocooning” — i.e., rest and inactivity in a dark room until symptoms disappear — even though research shows that is not the best way to treat a concussion.
If you’re like the majority of people who have had a concussion, then you likely recovered a few weeks afterward and have felt fine ever since then. Concussive symptoms typically resolve in 7 to 10 days (sports-related concussions) or within 3 months (non-athletes). (Epps and Allen, 2017). But not everyone is that fortunate. Approximately 33% of patients will have persistence of symptoms with 30% of those patients meeting post-concussion syndrome (PCS) criteria 6 months out from time of injury.” (Epps and Allen, 2017). Some people do not recover with normal “rest” protocol after a concussion. A recent longitudinal study found that only 27% of sufferers meeting criteria for post-concussion syndrome at 3 months post-injury eventually made a full recovery (Kensie et al., 2017). And even if you do recover and walk away with no long-term symptoms, it isn’t without consequence: You will always be more susceptible to another concussion than someone who hasn’t had one, particularly during the first year after your concussion. An article published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, it states that, a repeat injury while recovering from a prior concussion may occur with less force, and take longer to resolve (Simma et al.,2013).
If you visit a healthcare professional for a concussion, you’ll probably be told to lie down in a dark room until all your symptoms go away. If you get any other advice, it’s usually just another way of saying, “Rest.” But in most cases, that’s not the best way to treat a concussion. And in our experience treating hundreds of patients, many of whom have had symptoms that lasted for months or years, we know that it can be frustratingly ineffective.