The Foodie Dietitian Blog

Alternative Therapies for Post-Concussive Syndrome – An Update on Recovery

A review of alternative treatments I used for post concussive syndrome recovery as well as an overdue update on how I’m doing.A review of alternative treatments I used for post concussive syndrome recovery as well as an overdue update on how I'm doing. #concussion #postconcussivesyndrome #recoveryHi, friends.

A few of you have reached out recently to ask how my concussion recovery is going so I wanted to hop on the blog and fill you in. For those of you have no idea what I’m talking about you can catch up on my accident and concussion recovery here. 

It’s been a really looooong 7+ months. The last time we connected on the blog about my concussion was back in July, about 5 or 6 weeks post accident. I was starting to feel better back when I wrote the post but then I had an awful setback when I was in Buffalo, NY visiting family the following weekend. I was out on the water in the direct sunlight on a cloudless day and all my symptoms came back and I felt like I was back to square one, like all the progress I had made had been reversed. It was a really tough pill to swallow.

As an entrepreneur, it was really hard for me to put my business and blog on hold. I saw a handful of clients each week because I still had to pay them bills but I was trying to keep my schedule as light as possible. If you own your own business, I’m sure you can sympathize. It’s really hard to take a step back when you want to take two steps forward.

After I had my setback I scheduled an appointment with a neurologist (which was a nightmare in and of itself and required countless phone calls so that I wouldn’t have to wait 2 months to be seen). I wish I could say the neurologist gave me the golden ticket to recovery but of course, there’s no such thing. He reiterated everything I’d heard before which was we don’t know how long the recovery will take (but average recovery time is anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months) and all I could do was “do as little as possible for as long as possible.” I wanted specifics. I wanted certainty. And I got vague answers. I wanted recommendations for things I could do to support my recovery. And I got nothing besides that vague recommendation and the option to take a SSRI to help with my headaches. It was really defeating. Oh, he did order a MRI for me but like we expected it showed nothing.

I also set up an appointment with an ophthalmologist and optometrist because one of my concussion symptoms was strain around my eye muscles and I had experienced a little bit of fleeting eye pain prior to the accident so wondered if the impact exacerbated a preexisting condition. Sure enough, I needed glasses and the optometrist said trauma to the brain can exacerbate existing vision problems. AKA I would’ve needed glasses eventually but the concussion speeded things along. The good news is now I wear super cute big frame Warby Parker glasses when I work and it’s basically like I have a new accessory to wear. I reviewed some of the alternative treatments I tried in my last blog post but I’ll update you with things I tried following that post:

  • CBD oil. I have a RD friend and colleague who is a certified cannabis counselor and sells CBD oil. I’d heard that CBD oil could potentially help with pain, headaches anxiety and sleep disturbances (aka all my symptoms) so I figured I’d give it a shot. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice a difference for myself but have a number of friends who have noticed differences in taking CBD oil so you gotta try it for yourself and see!
  • Acupuncture. I found a new local acupuncturist whom I adore. She’s really thorough and makes you feel warm, grounded and comforted. Also, I’m lucky in that my insurance covers a certain number of acupuncture visits per year so am able to go regularly. It’s hard to know if acupuncture helped speed up my recovery but it definitely helped me to relax and relieved some of the emotional distress I was experiencing around the recovery. It seemed to help with the headaches too.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback is a form of therapy that helps you control some of your body’s involuntary functions like heart rate, muscle tension, skin temperature, etc. During a biofeedback session, you’re hooked up to electrodes which help you receive information (or feedback) about your body. By using different relaxation techniques, you can see the impact that relaxation has on these biomarkers in real time, helping you to gain more control over your body. Biofeedback is often used to manage chronic pain, headaches, anxiety and high blood pressure. Again I can’t say for sure whether or not biofeedback specifically helped me recover but it certainly didn’t hurt and I did see my numbers improve week after week. And as we progressed through treatment, it seemed that my headaches got less and less frequent. Biofeedback is also something that was covered by my insurance so definitely look into your benefits to see if it’s covered for you first.
  • Craniosacral therapy. Have you ever had energy work done? It is WILD. Craniosacral therapy is focused on helping your cerebrospinal fluid to move freely. The idea being that with trauma, the fluid can get stuck and so the therapist works to basically unstuck the fluid to support your body’s own natural healing process. I was introduced to this at a restorative yoga workshop where they had different body workers providing hands-on assists and a craniosacral therapist was one of the bodyworkers present. When I went home that night I looked up craniosacral therapy for post concussive syndrome and there was some research on it so I figured I’d give it a shot. I think I went for 3 or 4 sessions in total (mainly because I was paying out of pocket) but it was perhaps the most relaxing therapy I’d ever received (except when she did manual work inside my mouth on my jaw – that was not so relaxing) but the energy work itself – I felt like I was floating and completely at peace. I often felt like I could just lay on her table all day and never get stir crazy.
  • Omega-3s. There’s some research on high-doses of omega-3s and concussion recovery and in fact this one doctor has his own protocol on omega supplementation for post concussive syndrome so I would recommend taking a look at it. Before increasing any dosing for supplementations, I’d always recommend to check with your PCP or personal dietitian first.

So yeah I did a few things. But I’m the type of person that wants to know I’m actively taking steps in making myself feel better. Again it’s hard to say whether one of these things was the magic bullet for recovery. I think it was a combination of everything coupled with time. Time is a powerful force but it’s one of the hardest things to accept when you’re impatient like I am. Recovery takes time. Healing takes time. That’s one of the things I had to remind myself over and over and over again.Recovery takes time. Healing takes time. #recovery #healingAt the end of August, Steve and I went to Italy for our annual trip abroad. Canceling the trip because of my recovery was out of the question. We’d been planning this trip for a year and I didn’t want to miss or postpone it. Traveling was challenging for the concussion recovery. The jet lag, the stimulation of travel, being out of my routine, all exacerbated my symptoms. I got headaches every day like clockwork. I couldn’t sleep. I felt completely overwhelmed at times by the sounds and crowds around me, forcing me to go back to the hotel. It was far from perfect. But we made the best of it. And halfway through the trip, I started to feel better. Coming back was a similar struggle with the time change and I had to immediately turn around to go to NYC for a work trip. It felt like a lot for my brain to process.

But once I returned from Italy and got back into the swing of things, it felt like my symptoms were gradually improving week by week. And by the time the annual nutrition conference and expo, FNCE (aka the superbowl for dietitians), rolled around in OctoberI felt pretty much back to myself again. I took a few intentional breaks here and there but for the most part, it felt manageable. That’s when I was pretty sure I had turned a corner. But I was afraid to admit I was fully recovered. Because what if I got my hopes up and then I had another setback. And that’s how the few weeks following FNCE looked. Anytime I had a headache or felt off, I was worried it was my post-concussive syndrome. But it was hard to know for sure because many of my symptoms were things I could experience randomly here or there. The only thing I still deal with on the daily is seeing floaters in my eyes, which is super annoying, and also doesn’t affect my day-to-day quality of life, so I’ll take it.

I just had to keep reminding myself I’m so much better off and am able to do so much more than I could’ve a month or two months ago. And I’m still slowly easing back into things. Just last night I took my first spin class in 7 months. And I was okay with the music! It felt nice to be able to have that option for movement again if I’m in the mood. I’m back to working full-time again too and am working on a BTS project for my business that I’m reeeeally excited about and can’t wait to share it with you guys in a few months.

I went to a yoga class when I was in Denver a few weekends ago and the instructor had us all go around the room and name our biggest struggle for the year and why we’re grateful for it. I loved this prompt because it helped to force perspective on the things we’re struggling most with in life. It reminded me that even the worst of times, the deep struggles we face in life, give us something. Whether that’s strength or patience or trust or faith or resilience.Even the worst of times, the deep struggles we face in life, give us something. Whether that's strength or patience or trust or faith or resilience. #recovery #strength #resilienceFor me, my biggest struggle this year was definitely recovering from the concussion and it surviving it was my biggest accomplishment. I’m grateful for the space and time it gave me over the summer to fill my life with simple things that bring me joy. I’m grateful for the test of patience and faith, two things I continue to work on and probably always will be working on. I’m grateful for the people it connected me with. For those of you who reached out who were recovering from a concussion too, thank you. Oh, and I’m grateful it inspired me to chop my hair! I needed something fun to lift me out of my down and out spirits after my setback and so a haircut it was! And lastly, but most importantly, thank you for all the support and love and healing vibes and thoughts you sent my way. It may not have seemed like much but it meant the world to me.

xoxo.

For more posts on recovery and self-care, check out the links below: 

Musings on Healing and Recovery (A Concussion Update)

How to Combat Shame

How to Practice Self Compassion

Comments

  1. I love those Warby Parker framers! So glad you are doing better – I can’t imagine the recovery from such a traumatic experience. Totally sympathsize with taking time off when you own a business, its a difficult balance!

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