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HeadWay, Issue #056 -- Post-concussion syndrome
March 20, 2008

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In this month's issue:

Post-concussion syndrome

Is low blood sugar giving you a headache?

Say what?!  MTBI

Post-concussion syndrome

Concussions are very common, and usually not too serious (unless, of course, they come in a group! Repeated concussions can cause significant problems). But just when you're thinking recovery is on the way, the the symptoms should be going away... they don't. These strange, lingering symptoms may be Post Concussion syndrome.

It all starts with the concussion - often from an accident, sports injury or a fall. There are a number of symptoms that can come along with concussion - a temporary loss of consciousness (less than 30 minutes), headache, confusion, and dizziness. Usually the symptoms resolve quickly, but sometimes they can remain - new ones may develop - in the days and weeks ahead.

Symptoms of Post-concussion syndrome (PCS or postconcussive syndrome) may last for weeks, or even months. Common symptoms are dizziness, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, lack of concentration, trouble remembering, and sensitivity to light and sound. Read more details about post concussion syndrome symptoms here.


With concussion and PCS both, we're delving into the mysteries of the brain. The cause of PCS is not well understood, but most research seems to point to multiple causes. Usually treatment will focus on each specific symptom.

For example, you may have tension type or migraine headaches. These symptoms are usually treated with the same medication used for each specific headache. You might take something for the nausea (if you have any).

Trouble with memory and thinking is trickier to treat. You may be given tools to simply help you cope - for example, you may need to work on writing things down in order to remember. Or, you might need to ask things to be repeated or rephrased if you're having trouble understanding instructions.

Psychological treatments of various kinds have been very helpful to patients of PCS. They may offer coping strategies, or ways to minimize the symptoms.

Will I get better?

These symptoms almost always go away, even with a minimal amount of treatment.  When can you expect to start feeling better?  This varies from person to person, but almost everyone can expect recovery within 6 months.  Usually it's less time than that - within a few weeks most people are feeling better.

If you think you may have post-concussion syndrome, check with your doctor.  Make sure she knows your medical history, and do your best to describe the symptoms you're having, and how long you've had them.  She can help you find the treatment that's right for you.

Read more about Post Concussion Syndrome here.

Is low blood sugar giving you a headache?

If you've ever skipped a meal or fasted, you may remember that headache that started nagging you.  For many people, skipping meals may mean more than just a headache - it may trigger a migraine that won't go away even with the next meal.

How can you avoid that low blood sugar headache or migraine attack?  Here are some tips from Dr. Alexander Mauskop's book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines:
  • Try to eat 6 times a day - about every 3 hours.  This may mean 3 meals and 3 snacks, or 6 smaller meals.  This will help to keep your blood sugar at a constant level.
  • Try to get some protein (ie cheese, meat, eggs) and some complex carbohydrates (fresh fruit, whole grains, vegitables) into each snack or meal.
  • Cut down on simple carbohydrates (ie white flour, sugar), especially if eating them alone.
  • Try eating fruit with a little protein, and not alone (ie an apple and some cheese)
Why the last two?  If you eat too much sugar by itself, the body releases insulin to get the sugar levels back to normal.  But sometimes the body can over-react, releasing too much insulin.  Then you end up with low blood sugar - the very thing you were trying to avoid.

Say what?!  MTBI

MTBI stands for mild traumatic brain injury.  It is a physical injury caused by a blow to the head.  It's one of the most common brain disorders, and is also known as concussion, minor head injury, and minor head trauma.  MTBI patients should see a doctor right away to avoid complications and prolonged problems such as post concussion syndrome.

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