Concussion, post concussion syndrome, traumatic brain injury and Upper Cervical Chiropractic

Concussion TBI upper cervical chiropractic

Hits to the head are common.   Most people think about concussion as a brain injury.  And it is.  So why does it heal well in some and not others.  The answer to that question is complex and unique to each individual, but I believe one often overlooked factor in the recovery of a patient is the condition, alignment and function of their neck.


How does the brain recover from concussion?  Like any other part of the body it heals itself to the extent that it is possible.  The brain co-ordinates a response within the injured tissue to repair injured cells, create new cells from stem cells, replace the dead cells and nourish the repairing and new cells with nutrition and remove waste products to facilitate a healthy recovery.  But normal brain recovery is dependant on not only the brain.  It is highly dependent on the neck.  Particularly the junction between the head and neck known as the cranio-cervical junction.  This is where the blood flows into the brain, bringing oxygen and nourishment.  This is where the blood drains from the brain carrying with it waste products, dead cells and all that the healthy brain does not need.  It is where the cerebrospinal fluid leaves the skull, carrying with it more waste products.


The neck is so important to brain function and particularly the compromised brain after a concussion.




What happens if the neck is injured, functioning poorly, misaligned or compromised?


  1. Blood vessels bringing blood, oxygen and vital nutrition to the recovering brain can be kinked or partially blocked.


  1. Blood vessels draining the brain can become kinked or partially blocked leading to a build up or sluggish drainage from the brain



  1. CSF fluid, produced in the brain can build up in the skull. This can prevent drainage.  Reduced drainage causes a build up of waste products and may contribute to pressure increasing in the skull.  Even slight pressure changes in the skull can affect brain function and symptoms.


Upper cervical specific chiropractic techniques, such as Blair technique are niche techniques with the sole purpose of restoring normal alignment to the cranio-cervical junction.


Once the cranio-cervical junction is properly aligned the blood and CSF fluid can drain and enter the skull freely.  This allows for normal blood, oxygen and nutrition supply to the injured brain, whilst allowing the drainage of waste products out of the injured brain.  This removes an impediment to the brain recovering fully. 


Other factors very important to proper brain recovery:


  1. Different body parts heal at different rates.  A torn muscle may take 2-3 months to heal.  A grazed knee 1-2 weeks.  A broken arm 3-6 months.  Nerve and brain damage if it is to heal can also take time ie: 3-12 months.


  1. The damaged, recovering brain does not like you to demand too much.  Just like your broken arm goes into a sling so it can heal, a healing brain loves rest and sleep.  It is normal to feel tired and need more sleep while the brain is healing.  Normal day to day activities can be exhausting until the brain is fully recovered.  Doing too much will delay recovery.



  1. Brains need fat. The brain is composed of fat.  Its made of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats not to mention cholesterol and omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids.  It needs enough of all these fats to rebuild when injured.  These fats also allow proper assimilation and absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A,D,K and E.  Its best to get these from a healthy diet and supplements such as fish oil during this time of high demand.  Foods high in fat that may assist in supplying the building blocks for a recovering brain include:


  • Foods with fat.  Animal fats and organ meats ie: pate from liver (preferably from healthy animals)
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Oily fish and fish oil supplementation
  • Avocados


  1. Anti-oxidants. Oxidative stress can exacerbate damage leading to further loss of brain cells.  Anti-oxidants counteract this damaging effect.  Taking anti-oxidants may assist recovery.  Ie: Glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10.



  1. When we sleep our brain cells shrink and tiny canals open up between all the cells.  Brain cells can then release all their waste products from the day which are swept away and carried out of the brain.  This process is part of the GLYMPHATIC system of drainage.  Without sleep the brain retains waste products causing poor brain health, brain fog etc


  1. Water intake: The brain like all body parts requires adequate hydration for proper function. This is particularly important after a concussion to allow normal flow in of nutrition.


  1. Don’t get hit in the head again! A knock to the head or neck while the brain is recovering can be extremely harmful.  The healing brain is far more vulnerable to further damage.  While recovering do not engage in activities that could cause another concussion, ie: contact sport, physically demanding work.


Brain recovery to do list?


This will be different for each case but to allow for proper brain recovery here are some actions to consider.

  • Upper Cervical Chiropractic care focused on the cranio-cervical junction such as Blair technique.


  • Rest when tired


  • Gentle exercise such as walking. Begin with a tolerable amount.  Start low and build up the time and intensity, guided by symptoms. (Fatigue and mood are a great guide initially)


  • Eat a diet with enough fat and fat soluble vitamins to support brain health. A good starting point would be a smoothie for breakfast with added fruit/vegies/berries/protein powder/coconut cream/coconut or regular yoghurt.  Lunch of salad with tuna/chicken with dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Dinner meat and veg.


  • Reduce consumption of processed foods. Particularly the ones with high amounts of seed oils, margarine and oxidised fats such as canola oil.


  • Go to sleep early.


  • Drink 2+ lt water per day


  • Reduce work/study time using fatigue and mood as a guide.


  • Sunlight for vitamin D3 and nitric oxide production daily.


  • Top 4 supplement recommendation for brain recovery: CoQ10 150mg day, magnesium 150mg/day, fish oil high in DHA 1000mg/day, N-acetyl-cysteine 1000mg/day.


  • Be kind to yourself and expect gradual improvement over time.