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Warning Signs of a Hidden Concussion

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)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Menstrual changes
  • Poor motivation
  • Impulsiveness
  • Migraines
  • Dizziness
  • 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.

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COMMENTS

  1. Lori Waite says:

    I’m son rocks so hard he bangs his head. I’m afraid he might have brain injury. He’s 17 and been doing this his whole life. Cannot focus at all.

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Lori, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss the diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries and head traumas. We look forward to speaking with you.

  2. Val says:

    So how does a person correct this issue? How does a person heal a traumatized brain? Thank you!

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Val, thank you for reaching out. Dr. Chapek’s new book coming out will be a great resource for treatment (https://www.amazon.com/Concussion-Rescue-Comprehensive-Program-Traumatic/dp/0806540230) and additionally, we have information on how we diagnose and treat concussions, TBI, and head trauma on our website here: https://www.amenclinics.com/services/concussion-rescue-program/. For more information, our Care Coordinators can answer your questions and schedule a consultation with an Amen Clinics physician. Our contact information can be found here: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

      • Deirdre says:

        My husband was evaluated at the Amen Clinic in Atlanta in the fall of 2015. He had had a car accident in 2003 where he was T-boned, car spun around several times and he lost consciousness for a few seconds. His head was NEVER evaluated at the time of the car wreck. The biggest concerns at the time we’re whether he had sustained neck injuries. He was sent home within hours of the accident. In the ensuing years, he had frequent headaches, neck pain, and his mental acuity began to degrade. It was this degradation and depression they led him to Amen Clinics. Unfortunately, in May of 2016, two days before his 56th birthday, he chose to take his own life rather than face a future where he recognized his cognitive function, impulsivity control, and emotional stability were deteriorating rapidly.

  3. Debra says:

    I experience about nine of the symptoms shown on the TBI list but my doctors just keep saying that it is due to chronic insomnia, depression and sleep apnea. No one ever suggests a SPECT scan. I would love to have one as I’m tired of being tired and having such poor motivation. How does one go about talking family doctors into this test???
    Thank you,
    Debra

  4. Margaret says:

    I fell down the stairs when I was a little girl and slammed my head against the pavement. I do remember feeling lightheaded, but I got up and walked away. I remember a family member stating that my personality changed, and I had more fatigue in body and brain and many cognitive problems. I am a middle-aged woman and to this day I have these symptoms and more and am on SSI and Medicaid. You can’t imagine how frustrating it is not getting proper help and not being able to work and reach any of my goals.

    PS: I was told a couple of years ago that I have ADD; however, recently I questioned the treating medical professional and stated that I might actually have a brain injury. She said that I seem to have the symptoms associated with ADD. I don’t think that she is sure, but she said that they don’t use SPECT scans for psychiatric problems.

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Margaret, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly and provide more information about brain SPECT imaging and how we diagnose and treat symptoms such as yours.

    • Jean Cassup says:

      Know have had SEVERAL concussions since a baby. Now is becoming increasingly harder to push through and I avoid meds because was treated like a guinea pig in my 20s. But recognize SO many things. Is hoarding a part of this? Terribly disorganized and a total mess.

  5. frances La Brasca says:

    I don’t recall ever having a concussion in my 82 years of life. I suffer dizziness all day every day for over two years. I have been to
    doctors treating me after brain scans, MRI s, physical therapy, spinal manipulations , some drugs, eye examinations and much more.

    I continue to read, ask questions and hope to find some one or physician that can give me some other path to relief from this
    awful condition. Further I have a short term memory. I have no idea if there might be some linkage between dizziness and my
    short term memory. I am lucid in any conversation, but my short term memory is almost 100% in place.

    I’m continuing my search for anyone that might have a test and treatment that is available.

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Frances, thank you for reaching out. Many patients that we see at our clinics have underlying TBI’s from years past in their life and may not even remember. We’d be happy to reach out to you and provide more information about brain SPECT imaging and how we diagnose and treat symptoms such as yours.

  6. Jeremy Hines says:

    What was the time frame of her accident to being diagnosed? I’ve bright my similar issue to my doctor’s and it is usually disregarded.

  7. Gift Parker says:

    DearAmen! What supplements would you prescribe for someone having a learning disability , too impulsive and seems to have a Cingulate problem without Spect, we are currently outside . Also someone having menstral problems. Thanks

  8. Annie Thatcher says:

    My daughter suffered a pretty mile concussion late spring (and had a couple as a child) and has had two seizures about 2.5 months apart. Her MRI and blood work were normal, however she was diagnosed with epilepsy (she is 21 and apparently this is a common age this can show up). The Dr doesn’t want to do any additional testing. She also has tremors, leg kicking in her sleep and anxiety. Could a brain injury be causing the seizures and other issues?

    Thanks!

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