5 years after my non-stop headaches began, and 4 years after I started a modest, daily meditation routine, I reached a deeper state of meditation in which the headache released. I practice Vipassana Meditation. The headaches have become infrequent and when they do occur, I am able to release and unwind them right away. We have all heard about the healing power of meditation; I have had the good fortune to experience it directly. This has been my salvation.
On of the most helpful and soothing activities for me in overcoming post-concussion syndrome has been restorative yoga. When I was first concussed, I was a beginner doing a regular hatha yoga class twice per week. I found that I had to stop because it was too much for my head. My instructor suggested we switch to restorative yoga. I then proceeded to do restorative yoga without fail for a year and half. My classes were twice/week for 1.5 hours. On days when I didn’t have a class, I practiced some on my own. It was life changing. During the first 3 – 6 months, I would sometimes find that the restorative yoga class itself caused me to be more aware of my headaches during the class. It was not always pleasant, but my headache levels after the class came down and would stay down for hours at time. After the 6 month mark, I would be able to go into a restorative yoga class with a bad or a medium level headache and bring it down to a low level by the end of the class. The classes also gave me the tools right from the beginning to bring my headache levels down on my own at home.
Restorative yoga is about assuming very relaxing poses, with the assistance of an instructor, and then staying in those poses for a length of time and focus on your breathing. The instructor talks you through it. It is very easy to do and very refreshing. At about the 3 month mark of my post-concussion syndrome, I developed insomnia (a common concussion side effect). Practicing the restorative yoga at night to quiet my head cured it. It is also said to help with depression, another common concussion side effect.
I attribute my positive attitude and steady improvements to my long-term commitment to restorative yoga. I highly recommend it.
The second activity that helped tremendously is sleeping. After a concussion, many will advise that you should stay in bed. You probably should. Later, while suffering post concussion headaches, the need for bed rest may not be as apparent. After the concussion symptoms subsided, I started to go back to my normal schedule of 7 hours of sleep. I discovered the benefits of more sleep accidentally. After going to bed early and feeling better the next day, I ran a series of “experiments”. I went from 7 hours of sleep to 9 hours. The results were dramatic. I felt appreciably better and headache levels dropped off. Once I started feeling better, I let my bedtime drift later and then the headaches got worse again. I added more sleep and the headaches eased up again. In a related experiment, I also played with adding a 20 minute or 40 minute nap. I have heard that Lyndon Johnson and other subsequent presidents napped in the early afternoon. Why not try it? The results of the nap were really great. Also, if I only got 7 hours of sleep and then had a nap the following day, it took much of the edge off the headaches and prevented me from really tanking late in the day. I’ve read now that there is brain science that naps are a good idea for everyone. Just like walking. My theory is that what is good for everyone is even more important for those of us with post-concussion syndrome. We have more sensitive neurology. Think of it as your own private, highly tuned bio-feedback system guiding you to do the right thing.
If you are early in the post-concussion syndrome phase, please consider two activities that helped me the most. The first, and the one I will share today, is walking. In my experience, neurologists often recommend walking to patients healing from head trauma. If you are under a doctor’s care, ask your doctor. If not, consider seeing a neurologist who specializes in concussions and post concussion syndrome. If walking is too jarring for your head, don’t do it. Wait until you are ready.
For me, walking helped tremendously. The benefits don’t come all at once. As is often the case, the benefits come over time. When I walked a lot over numerous days, I would start to feel better. Headache levels would slowly come down. When I stopped walking, they would rise again. This also didn’t happen right away, but rather over subsequent days. Although not scientific, I tried to keep other variables constant to measure the effects. The results were clear. The more I walked, the better I felt. My thinking felt sharper also. The “fog” of post concussion syndrome headaches would lift a little. My ability to focus improved. Much has been written about the brain science which shows that humans were designed to walk and that cognition improves with walking. That seems to be even more true for people head trauma or post concussion syndrome.
How much walking is enough? For me, the clearest benefits were when I walked 30 – 60 minutes, three times a day. That’s a lot of steps. In addition to improving how your head feels, you will get in decent shape.
If you have recently had a concussion or brain trauma, please see a doctor. Consider calling 911. Doctors need to determine if there is bleeding in your brain, or if there are other serious issues. You need urgent medical attention. Doctors and coaches can share a concussion protocol that can speed your recovery. Disclaimer – I am not a doctor and am not providing any medical advice on this blog.
Also, the main focus of this blog will be post-concussion syndrome. If you have concussion symptoms, that is different. For concussion symptoms, in my experience, doctors recommend lots of rest. I chose to ignore that advice and tried to power through the headaches. Naturally, the headaches got worse. I powered on. Eventually, the headaches became completely debilitating. At that point, I went back to the doctor and she said, “REST”. When I did, the concussion symptoms subsided. Then, I experienced post-concussion syndrome headaches and symptoms. Those continued on. In this blog, I will share what worked for me in addressing post-concussion syndrome.