Concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head, or forceful shaking of the body and unfortunately, is more common then we may realize. It can be the result of a sports injury, motor vehicle accident or any other fall or accident. You do not have to lose consciousness to get a concussion and may even have a concussion without realizing it. Symptoms can include headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, insomnia and fatigue. These symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe and can occur immediately or as a delayed response. These symptoms can be more prolonged and severe with multiple concussions.
The current medical approach to treatment is rest both physical and mental and over the counter pain relief such as Acetaminophen. Rest is important, as well as a thorough examination by an MD that may include a CT scan or an MRI. Many of these symptoms may disappear on their own or may become sub-clinical, meaning there may be no recognizable signs and symptoms now, but may show up later in life as mental clarity and thought processing issues, mood disorders, migraines, and a multitude of other problems involving cognitive functioning. They are currently linking exposure to concussive force (such as a grenade, or other head trauma) to PTSD in veterans of war.
In my clinic I have observed, with both adults and children, problems with concentration and mood, both immediately and years after the incident. I also have had many patients report to me that they “just don’t feel like themselves”, or have anxiety. Though important, I really don’t think rest and over the counter pain relief is enough. Clinically, I have observed the difference that Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, massage, and Chiropractic work can make with these cases. These modalities can rectify the flow of blood in the brain after trauma. With any traumatic injury there is an inflammatory response that occurs. This is normally a good thing, sending nutrients to the area to help it heal. In many cases of traumatic injury, however, after the inflammatory response is over there is a lot of “debris” (old blood cells, and sometimes lymph) left behind. In Chinese Medicine we call this blood stagnation. It is literally stagnant, de-oxygenated, nutrient void blood, and inflammation. It is not nourishing the area (in this case the brain), and is preventing fresh, nutrient rich blood from getting to the area to help the tissue heal. This is also why an old injury can cause problems later on in life if not properly treated. The lack of circulation degrades the area over time.
There are many excellent Chinese herbs for improving circulation. We usually use several different herbs at a time in a formula. Xue Fu Zhu Yu tang and Tong xiao huo xue tang are two of my favorite formulas for improving circulation in the upper body and head. They can be combined with other formulas, or single herbs to address additional concerns that may go along with concussion such as anxiety, PTSD, fear etc…These formulas are chosen based on pattern differentiation after a thorough assessment of each patient and therefore may be different for each patient.
Acupuncture is extremely helpful also. The insertion of local and distal, (away from the area), needles are important for circulation as well and work synergistically with herbal medicine creating the best possible outcome when used together. Acupuncture also has an analgesic (“anlˈjēzik” pain relieving) effect that is welcomed with lingering pain and headaches. Acupuncture has also been shown through fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) measures brain activity) to have an effect on the brain via the nerves/acupuncture channels. For example, when a needle is inserted into GB 37 (an acupuncture point used for vision problems) it modulates activity in the vision related cortex of the brain. The same can be said for other acupuncture points involving mood and memory.
Massage therapy, like Acupuncture, not only feels great but manually gets in there and gets the blood moving to release trigger points and other myofascial restrictions. I have seen chiropractic work be helpful as well. With the force needed to cause concussion it is almost certain that some vertebrae will be out of alignment. Putting these vertebrae back in alignment is important for proper nerve function and releasing muscle tension. When everything is in the proper place our blood flows better.
While it is important to seek medical attention after injuries that would cause a concussion Chinese herbal medicine, Acupuncture, Massage, and Chiropractic treatments can not only help with relief of symptoms such as pain, headaches, confusion, and mood issues but can also prevent these from being a recurring problem in the future. I think it is also nice to know that we have other options for treatment other than rest and pills.
For more important information on this topic please check out the following site.
School has started and the weather is starting to change. Cold and flu season is approaching fast. Now is a really good time to take good care of yourself so that you may stay healthy this winter. Here are a few good Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tips on staying healthy this season, and what to do if you get sick.
- Cover your neck, shoulders and head from the wind and cold. In TCM wind is the “carrier of 100 pathogens” and it likes to invade at the area of C7 (where your neck meets your shoulders). Keeping this area covered is a great first line defense in preventing wind invasion aka common cold. This also applies to fans in the room (especially above the bed) and air conditioning vents that blow directly on you (this goes for the summer also). This is especially relevant if you have a tight neck and shoulders, or get frequent headaches.
- Get plenty of rest. In the winter the natural flow of energy is to go within and rest. You can observe nature doing this. The leaves are falling from the trees, plants are retreating underground and animals are preparing to hibernate. We should do the same (as best as we can in our busy society).
- Stay warm. This is just general good advice from all cultures. I have heard many people say that it is the pathogen that gets you sick, not the cold. While this may be true, keeping warm and getting plenty of rest is great support for your immune system, and helps keep our defenses up.
- Eat appropriately for the season. Nature knows what is best, and it is advisable to eat what is in season. Root veggies will be harvested soon, and most are high in vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, vitamin B, and many antioxidants. These are all very appropriate for soups and stews. It is good to make your own bone broth as well. From a TCM perspective soups and stews are very nourishing and warming, which can be beneficial for most people going into the winter season. In general, cooked food is best and is recommended all year for people with digestive problems. This also includes drinking room temperature water. Adding cold/ice water to your body can make the body work harder by slowing the digestive process.
- Acupuncture has been shown to regulate numerous systems in the body. It can improve digestive and respiratory function, regulate hormones and reduce stress. It helps the parasympathetic nervous system regain control of our bodies. This is the “rest and digest” side of the nervous system associated with relaxation and recovery. When everything is functioning correctly your immune system is stronger and your body is more resilient to illness.
- Chinese Herbal Medicine can offer assistance as well. There are many herbal formulas directed at regulating the immune system. Huang Qi (Astragalus) is a well known immune tonic. It is usually combined with Bai Zhu (Atraclyodes), and Fang Feng (siler) to make up Yu Ping Feng San, a popular formula for preventing illness. A trained Chinese medicinal herbalist may use this formula as a base formula to address frequent illness. These herbs can be combined with other herbs that are specific to the individual needs of the patient based on TCM diagnosis. A great point to stimulate/rub is Stomach 36 (ST36). It is located on the front side of the leg, about 4 finger widths from the bottom of the kneecap and 1 finger width (to the outside) of the tibia (shin bone)
- Avoid Sugar. Much of our immune system is dependent on a healthy gut. Eating too much sugar will disrupt the bacteria balance in the gut by feeding the bad bacteria. This can make it harder for the immune system to do its job.
With camping and hiking season well on its way, now is a good time to update your first aid kit. Chinese herbal medicine can offer some great additions to the traditional survival pack.
Yunnan Baiyao is a traditional hemostatic (stop bleeding) powder in the Chinese herbal pharmacy. It is used by lightly dusting the cut/wound with the powder and has been shown to shorten bleeding and clotting time. The product usually comes with a red pill that can be swallowed in case of emergency (internal or serious bleeding). As well as keeping this powder in my first aid kit I also carry it in each car. As a mother of a 7 year old boy I like to be prepared.
(Please seek medical help immediately if injury is severe)
More info on this product can be found at www.activeherb.com.
Ching wan hung is an amazing Chinese herbal burn cream. Frankincense and myrrh are 2 of the active ingredients in this product. I like to mix this product with colloidal silver, another product used for burns. In my personal experience they work even better together.
Fun Fact: Frankincense and Myrrh are called Ru Xiang and Mo Yao, respectively in Chinese. They are used to invigorate the blood, promote movement of Qi, alleviate pain, reduce swelling and generate flesh. 0-99900
This product can be easily found online. My trusted source is LhasaOMS.com
It’s getting hot out. A really delicious way to prevent overheating is to eat watermelon. The green part in between the peel and the fruit is especially effective. It is also a tasty treat for kids at sports events where overheating will be more likely.
Coconut water is a great way to rehydrate. It has the same electrolyte balance as our blood plasma, and is nature’s pedialyte and Gatorade (without the artificial colors and extra additives).
Fun fact: The Chinese name for watermelon is Xi Gua (xi gua pi-watermelon peel/rind) and is indicated in Chinese Medicine for clearing summer heat and relieving thirst:)