T Nation

Concussion - Ongoing Symptoms

I’m getting sick and tired of not being able to lift, so I’m just coming here for some tips and to see if maybe someone here has had a similar experience.

I was struck very hard in the side of the head a little over 3 weeks ago. I didn’t get knocked out but I immediately felt foggy/nauseous/off-balance and was told I had gotten a concussion. I couldn’t do much of anything for a few days but then I started feeling better. A week or so later I got back in the gym and tried to lift some ridiculously light weight, and the symptoms all came back. I went back to the doc and they said I have post-concussion syndrome.

I’m now at the point where I can safely do light cardio and bodyweight dips & chinups and such. But I tried to ease my way back into squatting with some light DB goblet squats, and even that was enough to set off the headaches (immediately). I just want this to be over so I can get back to lifting and get my life back. I’ve heard sometimes it can last months. Has anyone here dealt with post-concussion syndrome? How long was it before you were completely better and able to lift heavy?

I’ve only worked with one or two clients after a concussion (though I’ve had many who were hungover) but something to account for with the gym is how much stimulation there can be relative to your non-gym day.

At the time, for the gym I was at, the client would come in and there’d be racquetball noise, TVs, music, lighting, weights clanging, blow dryers in the shower area, etc.

We’d try to go to the quietest place of the gym we could (aerobics room is a good bet) for as much of the session as we could (I brought over some DBs). I didn’t care if the person had some headphones in with quieter background music, or wore sunglasses to block the light.

Anything with up and down movement I was careful about. A RDL would be a prime example. You could try doing it with the eyes always up, but there were plenty of other things we could do in the meantime.

Next, being careful about anything that demonstrably increases, or could increase, blood pressure e.g. anything where the person is more likely to grind or hold their breath. Obviously, as you hit on, keeping things light is one way to do this. But I’ve also found it worthwhile to take out certain exercises, as an added insurance policy. It’s common to say “Alright, I’m going to go light on chin-ups,” then in the middle of a set say “I feel pretty good, let’s see how close to my PR I am.”

This is where you could temporarily go away from compound movements in favor of breaking the body up. For instance, rather than squat, go with leg extensions and leg curls. Even better, go only one leg at a time.

Lastly, I’m not well read on this at all, but I have seen more and more research come out about this due to interest in better recovery for American football players. You may find some more info in that world.

One element I’ve seen mentioned a couple times is minimizing screen time.

That is, if you can lessen the amount of stimulation you have in your non-gym time, that may increase your tolerance in the gym.

All that said, doing too much too soon, and I’ve seen research say that can increase the recovery time. Not a bad idea to view the brain like an orthopedic injury in this regard. It needs time to heal like any other injury.

Good luck!

REST!!! I got a really nasty concussion 2 and a half years ago, and had your exact same symptoms. I also got sick of not being able to lift, and tried to work through it. It nearly killed me (passed out and stopped breathing, my wife had to revive me).

Accept the fact that: 1.You can’t push this injury, you have to give your brain time to heal, and 2.That amount of time varies (every TBI is different), but in a lot of cases it is agonizingly S-L-O-W. To this day I’ve still only recovered about 80-90%, and just started (very carefully) working out again about a month ago.

Here’s a list of resources I put together to help people with TBIs: what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but I would definitely try them all (some of these list facilities in San Diego; use google/yelp to find similar ones in your area):

Turmeric: this is a natural anti-inflammatory and has worked very well for me (stick with a good kind, there are a lot of cheap ones that aren’t as effective).

Cryohelmet: (this does wonders for my brain, it’s very different than just putting an ice pack on your head): www.cryohelmet.com

Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s): (you want L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine): Another one that I could feel the difference after I started taking them. They help the brain regenerate; in a study, mice in comas began to wake up after they were given these amino acids.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): Another supplement that reversed TBI effects in mice. I saw good results.

Hyperbaric oxygen: Often has excellent results for healing TBI’s. There are 2 basic kinds, one in a tent, and another in a chamber. The tent is typically much cheaper, and I personally can’t tell a difference between the tent and the chamber, but both give me an immediate boost and reduction of symptoms. However, every TBI is different, so you will need to experiment to see what works best. Per my doctor around 50 sessions is typical.
• Chula Vista: ($20/weekly visit, 6 month contract): Oxyhubs 230 Glover Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91910 - (619) 344-8383
• Vista: New U Rejuvenation Center 1315 Hot Spring Way Vista, CA 92081. There is a groupon available (go to www.groupon.com and search for New U Rejuvenation Center) for 1, 3 or 5 sessions. This is a great way to try it out. They have various packages up to 50 sessions.

Chamber: SD Center for Hyperbaric Therapy 5038 Ruffner St, San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 268-4268. This is a pressurized chamber with pure oxygen. $225 per visit. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference between a tent and the chamber, but your results may vary.

Cleanse: This made a dramatic difference for me. I use Solti.com, but any good cleanse should work. After researching and experimenting with multiple variables (diets, etc), I believe this helps by “flushing” waste products out of the brain (fasting also helps this process). FYI, the brain undergoes physiological changes during sleep that allow these waste products to be removed; your brain only weighs a few pounds, but uses about 1/3 of the energy used by your body, so keeping it “clean” is important, especially with a TBI.

Fish Oil: Omega-3 oil gives brain the raw materials to regenerate itself. Also found in salmon.

Podcast: Adventures in Brain Injury: http://adventuresinbraininjury.com/podcasts/

Book: The Concussion Repair Manual: A Practical Guide to Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries by Dr. Dan Engle

Meditation: Can find meditations on Youtube for free, or there are a lot of apps for your phone. With a TBI, healing is all about slowing down your brain waves to give it a chance to rest.

Really Expensive Options:
The Amen Clinic in Orange county. Does SPECT imaging of the brain, which maps the actual blood flow to the tissues of the brain (alzheimer’s and some TBI patients have “dead spots” in activity) Daniel Amen also has some good books and a PBS video set on brain health. About $4000 for imaging, insurance won’t pay for most of it.

Irlen Institue in Long Beach – Figured out that brains with TBI have problems processing certain colors, makes glasses that filter out that color, therefore de-stressing the brain. Probably doubled the amount of time I can look at a computer screen. By the time I bought glasses and all, about $1900