Post-concussion self-care

I’m getting referrals for craniosacral therapy for people who have had concussions, and I want to help these folks heal. Not knowing what a doctor may have told them, and knowing how busy most doctors are, I’m providing information here that may help those with injured brains recover more quickly. If your doctor tells you something different, listen.

People who’ve had concussions report these symptoms: pain, dizziness or vertigo, balance issues, gait disturbance, vision changes, sensitivity to light and sound, language problems, confusion, lack of focus, forgetfulness, nausea, sleepiness, and/or emotional problems.

To clarify the language, concussions may also be called mild TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). People can get concussions from an impact, from being shaken (like shaken baby syndrome), or from being near an explosion (IEDs make this a tragic problem for many veterans).

To help you visualize what happens in a concussion, imagine your brain is like jello inside a closed hard container (the cranium) cushioned by a thin layer of water (cerebrospinal fluid), with substantial membranes (the meninges) separating the major parts (hemispheres, cerebrum and cerebellum). A major impact slams the brain around inside the cranium, damaging brain tissue. Research points to the corpus callosum, which connects and coordinate the left and right hemispheres, receiving the most damage from concussions.

After a concussion, most people recover most or all of their abilities — within few weeks for some, or after year or so for others. The healing period is likely related to the severity of the injury, the state of your health at the time, whether you’ve had previous concussions (perhaps from early childhood falls or undiagnosed), getting quick and appropriate treatment, and your self-care afterwards.

There is a statistical link between experiencing concussions and accelerating the mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease in those already at risk for Alzheimer’s (known through family history or genetic testing).

Here’s how to take care of yourself after concussion to encourage healing and possibly prevent serious health issues down the road.

Get support.

Let others help you, because you may be disoriented, less capable, ill, and more. You may need someone to drive you to appointments, sub for you at work, help with the kids, or frequently check in with you. Call on your friends, family, and whatever communities you belong to.

Stay hydrated.

Your brain is very sensitive to dehydration, and after a concussion, measuring how much you actually drink is important, just to make sure you’re getting enough fluid. Go for half your body weight in ounces of clean water each day. (If you weight 150 lbs., drink 75 ounces.) Start each day with a big glass of water. Here’s more about hydration.

Take an Epsom salt bath.

Soak every night to relax, relieve muscle pain, and absorb magnesium, the most vital mineral for brain health, through your skin. Magnesium levels (often deficient already) drop sharply after a concussion, so getting enough is important. Add two cups of Epsom salt to warm or hot water and soak for 12-15 minutes. Most grocery stores carry Epsom salt, and if you have the storage space, you can buy it in bulk from Amazon and save. Add essential oils to your bath water if you wish. You may wish to take magnesium threonate instead of or in addition to Epsom salt baths (link below).

Take supplements.

Concussions rapidly deplete your levels of vital nutrients in an attempt to recover brain health and function. To provide the building blocks for a better recovery, take these supplements in these amounts daily, starting as soon as possible after concussion until you feel recovered. These are high dosages to support production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and glutathione, essential nutrients your body makes that recover brain function and reduce inflammation, and to help your neurotransmitters carry signals between brain cells.

  • creatine (10 g) is a protein that provides energy for the brain
  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine (1-5 g) helps your body produce glutathione, known as the master anti-oxidant, which protects cells from damage
  • fish oil (4,000 mg) greatly reduces inflammation
  • a Vitamin B complex supplement is easier than taking separate B2, B3, B6, B12, and folate, which reduce inflammation
  • Vitamin C (1,000 mg) helps your body produce glutathione
  • Vitamin D3 (5,000 IUs) improves cognitive function, helps with neurotransmitter production, and reduces inflammation
  • magnesium threonate (2 g) permeates the brain, increases BDNF, helps with memory, and does not tend to have a laxative effect
  • zinc (50 mg) improves memory, reduces inflammation, and helps with neurotransmitter production
  • curcumin raises BDNF production and is anti-inflammatory

If you are on a budget, I would focus on three: N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC), fish oil, and curcumin, and get the protein, vitamins, and minerals from nutrient-dense foods and Epsom salt baths.

Eat a ketogenic diet.

Going ketogenic (high in fats, moderate protein, low carbs) helps with recovering brain health. This diet was developed to help children with epilepsy and is considered to be very beneficial for brain health. Being low in carbs and high in healthy fats, the ketogenic diet is also an anti-inflammatory diet. Eat these beneficial foods: eggs from pastured chickens, wild salmon, sardines in olive oil, coconut oil, real olive oil, walnuts, tomatoes, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, avocados, and wild blueberries (all organic if possible). Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, trans fats, seed oils, fried and processed foods, factory-farmed meats and fish, grains, legumes, and other fruits and juices. If nausea is a problem, try a protein shake (possibly adding some of the supplements and foods listed above).

Rest and resume activity as you are able.

In the first few days after a concussion, rest from strenuous mental or physical exertion and avoid additional stress.

  • Get someone else to drive you until you feel up to it.
  • Do one thing at a time. Do nothing, as well.
  • Move your body slowly and gently at first: walk or do qigong or gentle yoga. Start with what you can tolerate. Always stop if symptoms return.
  • As soon as you become able, work up to more intense exercise, which increases your body’s production of BDNF.
  • Cross-lateral movement (walking, marching in place, etc.) helps get your hemispheres working together.
  • Practice balancing on one foot as you are able.

Exercise your senses.

These will help you and your supporters monitor your recovery and can help relieve the anxiety and emotional volatility that often accompany concussions.

  • Look at soothing images.
  • Listen to nature sounds, soothing music, guided meditations.
  • Receive touch. Notice your body sensations.
  • Engage your sense of smell with essential oils, herbs, flowers, and food.
  • Really taste your food.

Monitor your memory.

As you go about your post-concussion life, you and your supporters will become aware of how well or poorly your memory is working. Memory can return slowly after a concussion, so be patient. Making lists and setting up reminders can help. Ask for help if you need it. If you want to track your daily post-concussion self-care activities on paper, here is a habit tracker you can print.

Do lymphatic drainage.

This simple self-care technique helps your lymphatic system remove metabolic waste products and toxins from the injured brain. The discovery of lymphatic vessels in the brain is recent. This video shows how to do the technique for the head and neck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA-wi0d7-Ro

Practice alternate nostril breathing.

This is an ancient technique from India taught in yoga and pranayama classes. It is said to help balance the left and right brain hemispheres. Nostril openness is connected to the opposite brain hemisphere, and it switches throughout the day. This daily practice may be a way to improve the functioning of the corpus callosum, which connects the hemispheres. In my experience and that of many others, alternate nostril breathing is calming and balancing. Here’s how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbbr6Udg1UA

Make an appointment for craniosacral therapy.

The more quickly you can come in for craniosacral therapy after a concussion, the more quickly you can recover. Craniosacral therapy works with the fluids in your central nervous system and your body. It can help your body and brain become more balanced and relax more deeply, which facilitates healing. Depending on your craniosacral therapist’s skills and your needs, they may add lymphatic drainage, massage, and energy work, as needed in your sessions.

If your doctor writes a letter of medical necessity for craniosacral therapy, your health insurance or your employer’s health savings account may reimburse you. The cost may also be partially or wholly reimbursed through worker’s comp for on-the-job injuries or personal injury protection for auto accidents.

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Note: I am not a doctor, just a geeky health-oriented craniosacral therapist who wants to be of excellent service to my clients in Austin, Texas, and to anyone anywhere seeking useful information for self-care after concussion. I used multiple reputable sources of information available online to compile this post.

If you have anything to add or enlighten me about, please comment!

Hydration: the first step to building health

The first step to preventing dementia is to stay hydrated. The brain is more sensitive to dehydration than any other tissue in your body. This issue is on my mind due to numerous friends’ parents having tragically developed Alzheimer’s and also learning of contemporaries with early-stage dementia. Craniosacral therapy can help, and I’ll write about that in the future. Today: hydration.

This is a topic that your doctor will probably never mention unless you have a severe issue like kidney disease, but your massage therapist certainly will!

You are at your most dehydrated when you wake up in the morning. Therefore, drink water soon after you wake! It’ll help get your brain and your whole system going.  Continue reading

After #MeToo, Aikido.

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Source: http://upliftconnect.com/aikido-conflict/. Many thanks. 

Times are changing. The sheer number of women who have come forward with tales of being sexually harassed or assaulted by Harvey Weinstein has opened up a national conversation that is long overdue.

 

The many #MeToo tales of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and rape shared on Facebook and Twitter have made it clear: this situation is not just happening in Hollywood. It’s common. It is rare that a woman has never experienced such inappropriate sexual behavior. Millions of women — and teen girls, and girl children — have been touched in a sexual way that they did not want. And we’ve pretty much normalized it, except in especially heinous cases such as Bill Cosby and the occasional gang rape or murder or famous person.

“Oh, well, that’s Hollywood for you. Oh, well, she was asking for it. Oh, well, she was drunk. Oh, did you see what she was wearing? Oh, that’s just how it is.”

Some men and non-binary people have experienced it too, and there are female perpetrators out there as well. But by and large, it’s men who are predatory, unwilling to ask beforehand for clear verbal consent, willing to proceed even if the victim does not cooperate or is not enthusiastic (or is frozen with fear), and uncaring about the effect on the victim, which can be emotionally crippling and last a lifetime.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.01.23 AMI’ve been reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist specializing in trauma recovery, and he points out that when something traumatic occurs, the brain focuses on survival at the expense of the speech center in the brain (pp. 42-43). Think about this. Many trauma victims can’t tell a coherent story about what happened, sometimes not for years. Much traumatic experience has gone unreported, and yet it remains in the body and mind of the victim until addressed, usually with professional help, and meanwhile the brain stored fragmented images of the event that can reappear as terrifying flashbacks.

How many women have been triggered by the Weinstein stories? How many women are still recovering memories of abuse and harassment?

I firmly believe this predatory behavior is part of the patriarchy that we are moving away from in our culture. You see its resistance and dying gasps and desperation in the headlines every day. But it’s on its way out: There will never be another Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood again, and there will never be another American president who has engaged in predatory sexual behavior again either.

Meanwhile, women are sharing how much we live in fear, listing the habits we have developed from fear that simply do not enter the minds of men. Going running alone at night. Leaving our drinks unattended at a bar. Staying late at the office. Entering parking garages at night without an escort. Riding the bus or walking on a trail alone without a cellphone. Holding our keys like a weapon when walking alone to our car. Carrying mace. Smiling, making eye contact, or making small talk with a strange man, because we don’t know if he will take it as a sexual invitation.

Men are listening and learning and many of them, I hope, are developing more empathy and compassion and wanting to change this dynamic for the better.

Anyway, I want to share something I do that helps me feel good about myself. I took up Aikido.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art. It’s different from the rest. It’s defensive, not aggressive. Watch this short video of a couple of guys from South Austin Aikido practicing.

In just three classes, I’ve learned to take a bigger man down to the floor. It’s fun, it makes my brain work differently, and it could be useful. And it’s exercise, and it is a philosophy: ai = harmony, ki = spirit, do = the way — the way of the harmonious spirit. Yes, and.

I’ve been told that women learn faster than men (because men usually have to unlearn some things), and that it gives an advantage to smaller people because it’s not about overpowering someone. You learn to disable aggression calmly.

If you’re in Austin, I invite you to join me. The class I’m in meets Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12 – 1 pm. (It’s not on the schedule yet because it’s a new class.) My sensei is Rodrigo Martins. There are usually one or two more advanced students there to help with newbies like me.

You can wear anything to move in. You can visit a few times before deciding to commit, and if you do, it costs $85 per month. For that price, you can take all three classes each week, so that’s a bargain right there! Now is a particularly good time to show up and check it out before starting a full month in November.

South Austin Aikido is located in Southwood Mall on Ben White, in the building behind Blazer Tag.

 

 

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How Breath of Fire relieved my hiatal hernia symptoms

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, just someone interested in self-care, anatomy, physiology, and wellness who is relating her personal experience working with her own issues. If you are in a similar situation, the techniques described below may or may not be helpful. Always pay attention to your body’s yes and no.

A couple of years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with chest pain. I didn’t know what it was. I sat up, just feeling it, trying to figure out what was causing it and whether I needed to call an ambulance. Heart attack was my big fear. From the top of my solar plexus, the pain ran through the middle of my chest underneath my sternum and up my throat. It was unpleasant.  Continue reading

Opportunities to assist in Texas, after Harvey

Please share! Two of my Austin friends have set up GoFundMe campaigns after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas gulf coast, and I want to spread the word. The need in Texas is great. However you can help, it’s much appreciated.

Barbara Newitt grew up in Houston, and her 90-year-old mother and her two sisters still live there, together, whereas Barb has been in Austin for decades.

Her mom and sisters lived a block from Buffalo Bayou, a major waterway in central Houston. Their home was flooded. After a medical emergency, four policemen came to evacuate them, somehow got a boat, and the mom, Lydia, was taken to a hospital. One daughter stayed with her. The other daughter was taken to a public shelter. Continue reading

After my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course

On Wednesday, August 9, I got up early, loaded my car, made a home visit to massage one of my regular clients, and drove from Austin to Kaufman, Texas, a 3.5 hour drive.

BTW, my client commented afterwards that it was really a great massage. He even had a waking lucid dream toward the end of the session. I attribute that to his learned ability to relax deeply while staying awake and to me having more presence and being more tuned into him and myself. I knew that for the next 10 days, I’d be stepping out of my everyday life and meditating quite a lot without distractions. I didn’t have my normal everyday thoughts about logistics (travel, meals, timing, errands), which made a huge difference in my ability to really be present. So it started before I even left town.

IMG_0175I arrived at the Southwest Vipassana Meditation Center near Kaufman mid-afternoon. I registered, was assigned a room in the women’s dorm, and surrendered my wallet and cell phone. I had left books, computer, and writing materials at home.

I unloaded my stuff and set up my room, which was small, furnished with an extra-long twin bed and a plastic chair and small table, with open shelves and a place to hang clothing, and a bathroom with a shower. And a big window looking out on trees and clothesline. Very simple and adequate, and yet this particular Vipassana center is considered one of the more luxurious centers worldwide. Continue reading

HeartMath Institute sale!

Just got an email that the HeartMath Institute is having a 20% off sale August 3-17, plus free shipping on all orders over $40 in the U.S.

That means if you’ve been wanting to try HeartMath’s Inner Balance Bluetooth sensor, you can save if you buy it now. It’s one of the items I feature on my Products I Recommend page. The app (for iOS and Android smart phones) is free.

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If this is completely new to you, the HeartMath Institute promotes biofeedback programs from simple to complex that help you raise your heart rate variability (HRV), an indicator of health.

Also, if you are a member of the HeartMath Institute, you can get an additional 5% off your purchases. Since you select your annual fee based on what you can afford to give, this seems like a great time to join.

Habit tracking simplified

I do much better when incorporating new behaviors into my life when I have a way to track them that’s visual and shows more than just a few days. I found an online PDF, Habit Tracker, that has space to track up to 17 behaviors for one month, so you can easily view trends, skipped days, etc.

One of the activities that is motivating when trying to develop a new habit is checking off each time you do something on a monthly calendar. When you’ve done it for a few days in a row, you see your streak of successfully incorporating the habit, and you don’t want to break the chain. This technique was attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, but he doesn’t claim credit. Whatever. It works!

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Source: https://www.clementinecreative.co.za/reach-goals-free-printable-habit-tracker/

Continue reading

Donating blood has health benefits!

I donate blood. I am lucky enough not to have any of the contraindications (most of the time, details below) that can prevent people from being blood donors, and yes, there is an extensive questionnaire that you have to fill out every.single.time you donate, even when nothing has changed since the last time you donated. (Blood centers are careful. They have to be, and I’m glad they are.)

I imagine that somewhere in the central Texas area, someone, or several someones, are grateful that I did this. I know nothing about the recipients, but I’ve needed blood in the past, and I am very grateful to the donors. My child grew up with a mother because blood was available when I needed it.

I learned last year that because I’ve never had cytomegalovirus, my blood can be given to infants, who don’t have an immune system yet, and to others with weak immune systems. CMV is a common virus that has infected 50 to 80 percent of Americans over 40. The crazy thing is, you can be infected with it without even knowing it! It’s not serious at all if your immune system is working. Continue reading

A Secret Grave, an online serial murder mystery

I have a friend, Nicole Schindler-Jeffords, who is fabulously talented and creative. She is an artist who paints portraits in oil. She is also a published novelist and a born storyteller. She has many circles of friends. I’ve known her for at least a decade through the Austin ecstatic dance community.

Here’s are two of Nicky’s self-portraits:

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Self, by Nicole Jeffords

Continue reading