Can I see a chiropractor if I have a concussion?


Chiropractors in every state in America are educated to be primary care providers, in Montana and many other states chiropractors are also able to return an athlete back to play following a concussion. Chiropractors have a major roll in the diagnosis, as well as the treatment of patients who have had a concussion, here's how.

If a patient presents with a concussion there are a number of tests chiropractors will perform to get an accurate diagnosis and to rule out more serious complications.

The chiropractic exam will include, but is not limited to

  • Patient history
  • Vitals exam
  • Neurological exam
  • Physical exam
  • Cranial nerve exam
  • VOM (vestibular ocular motor exam)

The other important aspect of care is that your chiropractor will be able to differentiate which symptoms are caused from the concussion and which symptoms are from other injuries such as whiplash or myofascial sprain/strain. Sustaining injury to the cervical and/or thoracic vertebrae during the incident that resulted in a concussion is very common. It is important to look at all aspects of the injury and not just one component, such as treating the concussion but not the whiplash.  

Symptoms of whiplash include

  • Cervicogenic headaches
  • Inflammation
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Pain with movement
  • Tingling and shooting pain into the arms or shoulders
  • Point tenderness

Symptoms of concussion include

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Headaches

Chiropractors are educated to be a portal of entry clinician for patients, meaning they are trained in the evaluation process and able to diagnose conditions, as well as correctly refer the patient to the proper physician. For example if a patient with a concussion is having trouble with coordination and balance following a concussion, the chiropractor may refer the patient to a neurologist to co-manage patient symptoms. Chiropractors will also look for life threatening and more serious problems known as 'red flags'. These red flags would require immediate emergency care or require patient to be referred out for more extensive testing.

Common red flags include

  • Anisocoria
  • Abnormal cranial nerve responses
  • Changes in vital signs
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vision changes
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting

The Bottom Line

If an individual has recently had a concussion there is a good chance that they also have injury or damage in their spine that is contributing to their symptoms. It is important to not neglect the other injuries that may be present such as discogenic injuries, myofascial sprain strains or spinal subluxations. Seeing a chiropractor and getting chiropractic care during this healing stage is important in reducing inflammation, allow vertebrae to regain normal movement/ alignment, begin neuromuscular re-education and to reduce neurological and myofascial symptoms. Chiropractic care has also been shown to reduce concussion symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue and headaches! 

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