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Concussions and Massage Therapy as Rehab

Different Concussion Symptoms, Different Therapists

At York University in Toronto, the sport injury clinic provides a team approach to dealing with concussions among players on its varsity teams.

Sports medicine doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and more all bring their individual specialty to get an athlete back on the field or ice, but always with a go-slow approach, says Cindy Hughes, head athletic therapist and clinic manager.

“What’s really difficult is to figure out first of all: Has the brain 100 per cent fully recovered? When is it safe to return people to their activity? And what treatment is actually helping?” says Hughes, who likens what happens to the brain after a head trauma to an egg yolk banging around inside its shell.

Besides the cognitive effects from a skull-jarring, there can be physical repercussions such as head, neck and back pain. That may call for one or more therapists, each using a different technique to try to alleviate muscle tension, she says.

“Maybe acupuncture is going to work for that person, or maybe it’s cranial-sacral therapy or maybe it’s physio, because every concussion is different … So we try everything.”

One of those therapies is osteopathy, a system of hands-on manipulation of the bones and tissues aimed at restoring the body to health.

Part of that treatment can include cranial-sacral massage, says Natalie Randall, an athletic therapist and osteopath at Cove Sport Therapy in Dartmouth, N.S.

The osteopath will work on what’s called the dura mater (“tough mother” in Latin), one of the protective layers around the spinal cord upwards from the sacrum, or tailbone, that also cushions the brain inside the skull.

“We can work on the base of the skull, right where it attaches,” she says of the dura. “Can we traction it? Can we release it? Can we soften that tough mother to not be vising that head so tight?”

Other cranial techniques include manipulating areas inside the mouth and on the head around the ears, say Randall, explaining that one goal is to restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which carries nutrients to the brain.

“The osteopaths believe that we can feel that rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid and neurological activity in the body with our hands, with light, gentle palpation.

“A lot of doctors that work with me say, “I don’t really know what you do, but the athletes seem to get better,'” she says, allowing that most patients show at least some improvement with the therapy.

“Does everybody get better? No. I wish we were that magical.”

Still, Randall says sustaining a concussion represents a major withdrawal from one’s “bank account of health. And until you pay off your debt, you’re not going to feel good.

“So getting an osteopathic treatment is just one deposit into that bank account. So is physio, chiro, massage and athletic therapy … It’s a combined effort.”

Read more: CTV News


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