When we experience a concussion our nerve axons (connections) are stretched!

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February 16, 2017

If you connected all of our neurons, they would stretch around the earth four times. That's 100 billion neurons that make up our brain, all connected to create a framework that allows for incredible function, allowing us to love, create, think, imagine, dream, move, plan, focus, speak and the list goes on. However, our brains are so miraculous, not based upon the amounts, but the interconnectivity between our neurons. A computer is a more basic version of our brain, by connecting multiple computers or networks, we are able to store vast amounts of information and have tremendous increases in processing speed. Our brain works in a similar fashion, the more axons interconnected within our brain, the smarter and healthier we become. 

During a concussion, these axons are stretched, causing inflammation and damage to our brain. This is of particular importance, because it changes our processing speed and normal function- not just of the brain, but also control over many bodily functions, i.e. Autonomic function-->heart rate/rhythm and blood pressure, coordination, pain control, digestion, sexual function, bowel/bladder, numbness/tingling, balance. These axons that become stretched will eventually heal, but just as a bodily injuries often create a permanent change of some sort with compensation to allow healing, so does our nervous system and brain compensate, often with permanent injury. This compenation will give us many symptoms associated with Concussion, or Post Concussion Syndrome, even though we have "healed." This is due to the maintained pattern and signaling changes due to compensation from our injury. These are often quantified by complaints of dizziness, vertigo, balance/coordination/ataxia, autonomic and bodily changes as previosly discussed, slower processing, memory changes, reading difficulty, driving difficulty, difficulty with computer screens, visual changes, nystagmus, emotional changes, difficulty focusing, social changes and the list goes on.


What can we do? Once you have had an injury, the proper treatment is extremely important and specificity is key. I bring up specificity because the brain works in balance, as one area declines, another area increases as much of what the brain performs is inhibition of its neighbors. This is so we don't allow crossed signals and messaging. Therefore, if we are working with the brain, we need to work very specifically on the underactive areas to increase metabolic activity and reduce the overactive areas. We are able to do this by locating the areas that are damaged, or affected and designing treatments to specifically effect those parts of the brain. We do this through Cognitive rehabilitation, Vestibular rehabilitation, Oculomotor exercises (eye/brain training), Physical therapy, Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy(mHBOT), Nutrition and Chiropractic Care. It is very important to treat all of the aforementioned systems because multiple systems are affected when we affect our brain- it controls everything! The major areas of dysfunction that cause many of our patient symptoms are in the cervical and upper thoracic/rib regions, vestibular/cerebellar regions, brain stem, cortex and oculomotor (eye) areas. These systems much be working in harmony, or dysfunction and symptoms will ensue.

For example, patients will often have vestibular related oculomotor disturbance which will cause abnormal eye drifts and corrections and limit their ability to keep gaze on targets (keep their eyes on an image). This will limit their ability to read, as it requires accurate eye movements. It will also limit their ability to focus and socialize as we need to keep our eyes focused on a target to maintain our balance and spatial perception in order for higher cognitive function to occur that is necessary in conversation, processing, executive function and socializing.

The most important function of our brain is to maintain spatial orientation, or to maintain our body in relation to the space around us. Once we lose that, which is very common after concussions, all fo the higher brain function goes out the window, because our brain is more concerned with feeding, drinking and maintain our balance so that we don't die. Once we improve the balance and spatial function (eye stability), the rest of our brain function returns very quickly. 

Portland Chiropractic Neurology is the only Chiropractic Neurology practice in Southern Maine, located in Portland. Our doctors maintain specialties in Neurology with advanced degrees (fellowships) in Concussion and Brain Injury diagnosis and rehabilitation as well as Vestibular rehabilitation. Our team also consists of Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists, creating a multi-disciplinary approach. We utilize the latest advancements in technology and treatments to provide our patients with the best possible care. If you have questions, please contact us at 207-699-5600, or email at info@portchiro.com