Concussions and Balance Problems

Patients who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as a concussion can encounter a myriad of problems during their recovery. One of the more common problems with concussions is the inability to maintain balance.

Between 40 and 60% of patients experience dizziness and a lack of balance following any head trauma, including concussions and other brain injuries. Depending on the extent of your concussion or brain injury and any pre-existing health conditions, it can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to a few years for your balance to improve during the concussion recovery period.

To get a better understanding of the balance problems associated with concussion, let’s take a look at how balance is maintained, what can cause balance-related problems, and what you can do to improve your balance after a concussion or brain injury.

How Balance is Maintained

visualization of head spinning with a concussionBalance is often something that we take for granted. Maintaining balance is a rather complex process that can be disrupted after a concussion rather easily.

To maintain our balance, we rely on:

The visual and vestibular systems work together with proprioception to control our balance and to help us keep an upright posture. Eyesight helps with spatial orientation, the inner ear monitors rotation and linear movement of the head, and proprioception gives us insight into body position relative to the ground.

A concussion can affect and damage any of these systems, often resulting in balance problems.

That’s why concussion treatment is vital for a proper concussion recovery. Balance issues are a common symptom of concussion. If you are experiencing lack of balance or loss of balance after suffering a concussion or other brain injury, it’s best to address these balance symptoms by seeing a concussion recovery specialist.

Causes of Balance Problems After Concussion

concussion patient scan illustrationAfter a concussion, partial loss of vision, problems with depth perception, double vision, and more, can affect our ability to maintain balance. This makes the concussion recovery process more challenging.

Our visual system analyzes primary sensory information to maintain postural balance. Post-concussion problems are often associated with problems in the visual and vestibular systems that can cause dizziness, vertigo, etc.

One is likely to feel concussion symptoms such as balance issues when there are changes in the head position. Standing up, lying down, tipping your head, standing, or walking can all trigger balance symptoms in the post-concussion recovery stages.

Other Post-Concussion Balance Issues

woman practicing balance on rail road tracksSensory impairments, such as nerve damage in your feet, will force your brain to rely more on eyesight and the inner ear to maintain balance.

These are all fairly common symptoms as a result of concussions or other brain injuries.

A sudden drop in blood pressure can also affect your balance, and so can brain stem injury, mental health issues, or any medication that you might be taking.

Consult with our Ottawa concussion clinic to find out whether certain medications have affected your balance.

How Are Balance Problems Diagnosed?

a young boy getting his balance tested after a concussionBalance problems can be difficult to diagnose because they can be caused by a variety of different factors – each having their own specific treatment options.

Common methods of diagnosing balance problems include:

  • Heart Rate & Blood Pressure tests
  • Videonystagmography
  • MRI & CT scans
  • Posturography test
  • Hearing test

In conjunction with our professional team, talk to your doctor, physical therapist and other healthcare providers about what you are experiencing. These tests will allow for an accurate assessment of the cause of your balance problems and can also help measure a baseline to track your progress with balance throughout your recovery process.

How to Improve Balance After Concussion

man working on balance issues Different causes of balance problems will require different treatments, and it’s important to talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or another healthcare provider about your options.

Light exercise has proven to be helpful in the concussion recovery period including: aqua aerobics, balance boards, stationary cycling, walking, and ellipticals.

Increasing your strength and flexibility will not only help with your balance problems, but it may improve your recovery time after a concussion as well.

Auditory therapy can influence the mechanisms in the inner ear that help you regain your balance. At Broadview, we provide sound therapy which has been an effective tool in restoring balance following a concussion.

Vestibular rehabilitation is one of the main treatment and recovery options for balance issues following a concussion. You can practice standing with your eyes closed so that you can rely more on other senses for balance. Practice walking while carrying on a conversation, or walking in crowded places or over different surfaces. We provide vestibular rehabilitation assessments and exercises at our clinic – find out more about our vestibular rehabilitation services!

Broadview Spine & Health Centre:

An Integral Part of Your Concussion Recovery

It’s important to go slowly and be cautious when working on improving your balance after a concussion.

Talk to your physical therapist so that you can come up with a program that’ll help you improve your balance after a concussion. At our Ottawa concussion clinic, we are pleased to be able to serve in tandem with physical therapists and other players on your concussion recovery team, and we would be happy to consult with other members of the team or provide our insights and assessments to them at your request.

For more information on concussions or to book an appointment, contact us today by using the convenient form below. Also, if you haven’t checked out our online concussion testing tool, it can help you make sense of your symptoms and provide additional information for you appointment!

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