Warning Signs of a Hidden Concussion
By Kabran Chapek, ND
Having trouble concentrating? Feeling depressed? Struggling with brain fog? You may have been told you have ADD/ADHD, depression, or mild cognitive impairment. But that may not be the whole story. These may actually be warning signs of a past concussion and unless that underlying brain trauma is addressed, no amount of traditional treatments will work for your symptoms.
Just look at Jane, who came to see me at age 35. She had gone back to school to become a nurse and was struggling to keep up with her classwork. She felt overwhelmed, unorganized, forgetful, and depressed. She also complained of frequent headaches. Her previous healthcare provider had diagnosed her with “adult onset ADHD” and prescribed stimulants. The medication helped a little, but not a lot, even at higher doses. Jane’s life eventually became so unmanageable that her aging parents had to step in to support her.
The Secret Jane’s Brain Revealed
I ordered a brain SPECT scan for Jane. This test measures blood flow and activity in the brain and reveals areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity. Jane’s scan showed something that neither she nor her parents ever expected.
When I met with Jane and her parents, I asked her, “When did you suffer the brain injury?”
“What brain injury?” her mother asked, completely shocked. “I don’t remember Jane suffering from a brain injury.”
As we discussed her scan results, Jane recalled a number of concussions she had sustained as an adult in motor vehicle accidents, the most recent being a rollover accident. In this latest crash, Jane was able to walk away from the accident, although the emergency medical personnel who arrived on the scene insisted that she go to the hospital for an evaluation. At the hospital, she was evaluated and released the same day.
Jane never suffered any symptoms typically associated with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after the accident—she didn’t lose consciousness, feel dizzy, or even “see stars”—so there was no reason for anyone to suspect she had sustained a brain injury. That’s why when she began experiencing forgetfulness and had trouble concentrating, she didn’t think it had anything to do with the accident.
Why Concussions Are Often Overlooked
Most people don’t know that even mild brain injury can become chronic and cause long-term symptoms. The problem is this type of degenerative reaction is unpredictable. Jane was one of the 10 to 80% of people with a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion who develop chronic symptoms.
She and her family were surprised that her present problems were the result of a long-ago injury, but they were heartened when I told them that now that we knew the problem, we could take the appropriate steps to fix it.
If I had not evaluated her and recommended brain SPECT imaging, Jane probably would have continued down the path of one medication trial after another. Many times, doctors simply don’t ask about possible injury to the brain or actually look at the brain with imaging. Instead, the problems are frequently attributed to a psychiatric condition and the person is treated with medication like Jane was.
SPECT is one of the best tools available to identify areas of the brain hurt by a concussion or TBI. CT scans and MRI scans show damage to the structure of the brain, but they don’t show how the brain is functioning. In fact, it’s common for SPECT to detect functional problems even though a CT or MRI scan was normal.
Know the Warning Signs of TBI
I have treated many patients like Jane who were diagnosed with a psychiatric condition only to discover that a previously undiagnosed brain injury was contributing to the symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms associated with a persistent brain injury that stubbornly does want to heal include:
- Fatigue (physical or mental)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Menstrual changes
- Poor motivation
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Anger or irritability
If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms that may be related to head trauma, don’t be complacent. Seek help right away from a mindful physician who will take these symptoms seriously and who will look to see if there is underlying damage to the brain that needs to be healed.
In Concussion Rescue, author Dr. Kabran Chapek shares the specific programs and protocols he uses at Amen Clinics to put patients on the pathway to healing from symptoms related to concussions and TBIs. Order your copy here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms that may be related to a concussion or TBI, understand that treating the underlying damage to the brain is the key to feeling better fast. At Amen Clinics, our Concussion Rescue Program has helped thousands of people heal from concussions and improve their quality of life. Speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.