To date, the most common concussion treatment protocol includes plenty of sleep and rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID’s), and avoiding activities that require physical exertion or require a lot of concentration. Although this may work for the majority of situations, approximately 15% of individuals who’ve had a concussion will continue to have symptoms weeks, months and even years after the initial injury. Currently, there are no common treatment standards for those individuals whose symptoms continue to persist and impact their lives.
Although concussion research is still relatively new and ongoing, there is encouraging and increasing evidence that Cold Laser Therapy can be an effective treatment for concussion related symptoms and post-concussion syndrome (explained at the end of this page).
Cold Laser Therapy is also referred to as:
- Low Intensity Laser Therapy (LILT)
- Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
- PhotoBioModulation Therapy (PBMT)
Cold Laser Therapy treats concussion symptoms by increasing blood flow and circulation to the brain, breaking down scar tissue, reducing inflammation, and ultimately improving cognitive function.
Stimulates Healing: Mitochondria are the power stations (a.k.a. the “powerhouse”) of the cell. They are responsible for generating cellular energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Cells use ATP to run all of their processes properly and efficiently, including the healing process. An impact causing a concussion damages the cells and disrupts their ability to properly carry out the healing process. The photon particles emitted from the laser light are absorbed by cytochrome C oxidase in the mitochondria of the cell. This process facilitates ATP production in the damaged cells, providing the energy needed for them to heal and repair.
Promotes Neuron Regeneration: During the initial impact injury, there may be damage to some of the nerves (aka. neurons) that make up the brain. This damage disrupts the communication between these neurons and the rest of the body, and can result in behavioral or physiological changes. Cold Laser Therapy stimulates and accelerates cellular repair, including nerve regeneration.
Increases Blood Flow and Circulation to the Brain: Increases cerebral blood flow and the delivery of oxygen to the brain, both of which are required for healing.
Reduces Inflammation: Speeds up the body’s natural inflammation phase and induces the repair phase of healing.
Breaks Down Internal Scar Tissue: Breaks down internal scar tissue that can naturally form as a result of the initial impact injury, in the soft tissues (including the muscles, tendons, and ligaments), joints and nerves of the neck. (Learn more about Internal Scar Tissue here)
Most concussions occur simultaneously with neck injuries. This is due to the violent snapping of the neck that occurs during the event that also caused the concussion. And that in turn triggers a sequence of events making things even worse.
When neck tissue damage occurs, the body’s natural response to injury is initiated:
- internal scar tissue creation (the body’s way to temporarily repair torn fibers)
However, this process also disrupts blood flow and nerve connections, not only locally in the neck, but also impacts the important “supply chains” to the brain. In addition to being injured, the brain now is suffering from a less than a normal supply of nutrients. And this is not only slowing the brain’s post concussion healing, but creates additional brain “malnourishment” problems.
Easy to overlook, because the neck pain is often masked by headaches – but very important:
Since neck problems are also commonly involved in a concussion injury, not all concussion symptoms are resulting from the brain hitting the skull, but are the side- and after-effects of the accompanying neck injury.
Due to the mechanism of injury, we typically begin by treating the neck and base of the skull first. The brain stem (which extends downwards through the base of the skull) connects to the motor and sensory parts of the brain that communicate with the rest of the body. It also regulates the central nervous system and is responsible for vital functions such as: consciousness, sleep regulation, blood pressure, metabolism, heart rate, and breathing. Treating these areas allows the neck and the brain to receive blood flow and restore nerve connections, while also treating the locally injured tissue. And this may often end up being enough.
However, if we’re convinced that the damage in the neck has been resolved, yet concussion symptoms still persist, we will then treat other areas of the skull with near infrared light.
Ideally treatments begin as soon as possible after any injury. This allows the damaged tissue to heal quicker and prevent further injury. However, Cold Laser Therapy treatments can still prove beneficial, even if one has been suffering from post-concussive symptoms for months or years. More chronic situations may require more treatments, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Research Articles and Case Studies
Below are a few research articles and case studies, on concussion treatment with Cold Laser Therapy. These research articles have been published by reputable sources, and a few of them are written by Meditech, the company that creates the BioFlex Cold Laser Therapy system that we use at Solaj.
- “Case Profile: Cerebral Concussion” – Meditech
- “Concussion – A Therapeutic Solution” – Meditech
- “Shining light on brain injury” – Meditech
- “Significant Improvements in Cognitive Performance Post-Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Treatments in Chronic, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Open-Protocol Study” – Journal of Neurotrauma
- “Treatments for traumatic brain injury with emphasis on transcranial near-infrared laser phototherapy” – Dove Medical Press Ltd
Dr. Benjamin Yuen, DC, shares a case study of a 19 year old male who struggled with headaches and depression after a concussion from falling during a bike trick. He tried several medications but they did not relieve his symptoms. He then visited Dr. Yuen for Cold Laser Therapy concussion treatment.
- A concussion happens when a bump or blow to the head or body that causes the head and brain to be jolted quickly back and forth. This can result in the the brain moving or twisting in the skull.
- Concussions often happen during contact sports (such as football, hockey, rugby and less frequently in baseball, soccer and basketball), motor vehicle accidents, and falls.
- Concussions are commonly referred to as a “mild traumatic brain injury” (mTBI).
- Concussions result in damage to the brain cells and cause chemical changes to occur within the brain.
- These chemical changes make the brain more susceptible to increased stress and successive injury until it is fully recovered.
- Although it is a possibility, most people do not lose consciousness from a blow that causes a concussion. It is more common for one to not even realize that they’ve had a concussion.
- Conventional CAT and MRI scans usually fail to detect abnormalities, but symptoms of a concussion are indicative of neuronal disruption.
- Concussions were once thought as being “mild” and non-life threatening. They are now known to be a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, and many survivors suffer from chronic symptoms even years after injury.
- The people who suffer from chronic symptoms after a concussion often suffer from reduced functional ability, emotional distress and delay in return to work or school.
- Having multiple concussions over an extended period of time (months to years) increases one’s risk of having long-lasting neurological or cognitive deficits. Multiple concussions over a short period of time (hours to weeks) can have severe, or even fatal, consequences.
Symptoms of a Concussion
Signs and symptoms may show up immediately after the injury, while other times it can take several hours or days. Most concussion symptoms resolve within a few days to a few months. However, 15% of individuals diagnosed with an mTBI continue to experience chronic, disabling symptoms that can remain for many years after the original injury.
Signs and symptoms typically appearing immediately after injury:
- Can’t recall events immediately, prior to, or after the event
- Appears dazed or confused
- Seeing stars or other visual disturbances
- Clumsy movement
- Slow response to questions
- Mood, behavior or personality changes
- Loss of consciousness (in some cases)
- Can’t recall events immediately, prior to, or after the event
Symptoms that may appear hours to days after injury:
- Pressure in the head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance issues or dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Sensitive to light and/or noise
- Feeling foggy, sluggish, groggy or hazy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory disturbances
- “Feeling off” or “feeling down”
- Sleeping problems (too much or too little)
- Neck and/or upper extremity (arm) pain
Post-concussion syndrome may occur when an individual continues to experience symptoms weeks, months or years after their concussion first occurred. Many of the symptoms mentioned above persist, and may also include insomnia, irritability, fatigue, emotional dysregulation (depression, low mood, and/or frequent uncontrollable changes), and reduced alcohol intolerance.
There are various degrees of concussions, from mild to severe, that vary in degree of inflammation and pain, which consequently affects one’s physical and mental status. Brain imaging, such as MRI, PET and CT scans, may not show outright abnormalities that coincide with what one is experiencing. An article published early 2016, discusses how MRI markers may be able to predict if someone who suffers from a concussion will go on to develop migraine headaches.