The Crucial Connection: Assessing the Neck After a Concussion for Long-Term Recovery

Concussions are complex injuries with potential long-term implications. While much attention is given to assessing the brain following a concussion, the neck is often overlooked. Based on Dr. B's extensive years of experience, it becomes evident that the assessment and treatment of neck injuries following a concussion are not just important but could hold the key to resolving persistent, long-term post-concussive symptoms. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of assessing the neck after a concussion and how it can contribute to a more comprehensive and effective treatment approach.


The Neck-Brain Connection 

The neck and brain are intricately connected, both structurally and functionally. The neck houses the cervical spine, a complex network of bones, discs, ligaments, and muscles that support and protect the spinal cord. Additionally, the neck contains an abundance of sensory receptors and proprioceptive fibers that provide vital feedback to the brain regarding head position, movement, and balance.

Assessing the neck after a concussion becomes essential because a blow to the head can cause an injury not only to the brain but also to the neck structures. Even seemingly minor trauma can result in soft tissue damage, muscle imbalances, and misalignments in the cervical spine, which can disrupt the delicate balance between the neck and brain.


Cervicogenic Symptoms 

When the neck is injured alongside a concussion, it can contribute to a range of symptoms known as cervicogenic symptoms. These symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, balance problems, neck pain, cognitive difficulties, and even mood disturbances. Without proper assessment and treatment of these cervicogenic symptoms, the recovery process can be delayed, and individuals may experience prolonged or unresolved symptoms.


Proprioceptive Dysfunction

Proprioception, the body's ability to sense its position, movement, and spatial orientation, is heavily dependent on the neck's function. A neck injury after a concussion can disrupt proprioceptive input, leading to a mismatch between sensory information from the neck and the rest of the body. This mismatch can result in dizziness, impaired balance, and difficulties with coordination and concentration, hindering an individual's daily activities and overall quality of life.


Concurrent Dysfunction 

The neck and brain share neural pathways, blood vessels, and connective tissues. A neck injury can affect blood flow, metabolic activity, and nerve function in the brain. Conversely, a concussion can impact the function of the neck muscles, leading to muscle imbalances, tension, and restricted range of motion. This concurrent dysfunction underscores the importance of assessing the neck after a concussion to ensure comprehensive treatment that addresses both the brain and neck injuries.


Comprehensive Treatment Approach

By incorporating neck assessment into concussion management protocols, healthcare professionals can develop a more comprehensive treatment approach that targets all contributing factors to an individual's symptoms. This approach often involves a combination of physical therapy, targeted exercises, manual therapy, and other interventions to address both the brain and neck injuries.

Physical therapy techniques, such as cervical spine mobilizations, strengthening exercises, and postural re-education, can help restore normal neck function and alleviate cervicogenic symptoms. Additionally, addressing neck issues can enhance the effectiveness of other concussion rehabilitation strategies, such as vestibular rehabilitation and cognitive rehabilitation.

In conclusion, assessing the neck after a concussion is crucial for long-term recovery. Neglecting the neck's role in post-concussion symptoms can lead to unresolved issues, delayed recovery, and compromised quality of life. By recognizing the neck-brain connection, healthcare professionals can develop a comprehensive treatment plan that encompasses both the brain and neck injuries, facilitating a more successful recovery process and improving long-term outcomes for individuals.