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Osteopathic treatment for concussion

Concussions may seem benign on the surface, but they can have lasting effects. They are not just a hazard for elite sportspeople but also for children and adults alike. Patients often describe the sensation as “It felt like my brain hit the side of my head.” 

At Health Within Osteopathy, we take any form of brain injury seriously. It's our job to ensure the brain is happily floating within the cranium in its protective fluid.

What is a concussion?

Concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is typically defined as a head injury that temporarily affects brain function. Interestingly, you can have a concussion even if there was no loss of consciousness at the time of the injury. Concussions can also occur from a sudden deceleration injury resulting in a sharp jolt to the head. 

Symptoms may include:

  • headaches
  • neck pain
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • blurred vision
  • trouble with thinking, concentration, memory
  • mood changes
  • sleep disturbances

These symptoms can be temporary or persist for weeks or months.

The primary phase of concussion involves immediate tissue injury from acceleration/deceleration forces, while the secondary phase involves cellular level injuries indicated by neuronal cell membrane disruption and axonal stretch.

A case study: recovering from a concussion

One patient, a 40-year-old female, consulted us after being hit on the back of her head by a boogie board. Her initial symptoms included pain in her head and ears and an aversion to bright light. Two days later, she developed nausea, migraines, dizziness, light-headedness, and visual disturbances. She felt extremely fatigued, easily irritable, unable to multitask, and overstimulated. Her symptoms worsened without sufficient sleep and rest.

Initial osteopathic treatment focused on releasing diaphragm tension, calming the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight-or-flight response), and addressing restrictions in the neck, spine, and cranial bone sutures resulting from the impact.

The role of osteopathy in concussion recovery

Osteopathic treatment for concussion includes releasing the dural membranes and aiding arterial blood flow and venous drainage in the cranium, neck, and upper thorax. Our patient reported that her headaches resolved quickly with osteopathic treatment, although nausea and fatigue fluctuated with her activity levels.

Over several months of treatment, incorporating a multidisciplinary approach, she nearly returned to her pre-injury state and resumed long-distance running, her passion before the concussion.

Patient testimonial

"Osteopathy made a huge difference in my recovery from concussion. The most straightforward way it helped was to re-align my neck. I can’t explain most of the actual physical help osteopathy made to the many injured parts of my brain, but I know that after each treatment my nausea, headaches, concentration, and fatigue improved. Every time my recovery plateaued, a treatment would get it moving again. Beyond the physical differences, osteopathy helped me emotionally, recovering from the trauma and fear. It kept me calm so I could focus on all the activities needed for my recovery."

How sleep helps us recover from concussion

After a concussion, getting adequate sleep is essential for recovery. The brain’s glymphatic system, responsible for clearing away cellular debris, is most active during sleep. This system helps to remove the waste products that accumulate due to neuronal cell membrane disruption and axonal stretch, which occur after a concussion. Without sufficient sleep, this clean-up process is impaired, potentially prolonging symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties.

Additionally, sleep helps to regulate the autonomic nervous system, reducing the overactive "fight-or-flight" response that often accompanies concussions. Ensuring plenty of rest and maintaining good sleep hygiene are vital steps in supporting the brain’s natural healing processes and facilitating a quicker, more effective recovery from concussion.

Importance of proper care

Concussion severity and symptoms can vary widely from one person to the next. While only about 15% of patients with mild concussion have long-term complications, it is crucial to take any head injury seriously and avoid further head trauma during recovery.

Understanding and properly treating concussions can make a significant difference in recovery outcomes. At Health Within Osteopathy, we are committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to help our patients recover fully and return to their daily activities with confidence. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing concussion symptoms, book an appointment with Health Within Osteopathy to start your path to recovery.


1. Mechtler LL, Shastri KK, Crutchfield KE. Advanced neuroimaging of mild traumatic brain injury [review]. Neurol Clin. 2014;32(1):31-58. doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2013.08.002.

2. Jessen NA, Munk AS, Lundgaard I, Nedergaard M. The glymphatic system: a beginner’s guide. Neurochem Res. 2015;40(12):2583-2599. doi:10.1007/s11064-015-1581-6.

3. Xie L, Kang H, Xu Q, et al. Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain. Science. 2013;342(6156):373-377. doi:10.1126/science.1241224.

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