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 am 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 may report experiencing pain, dizziness or vertigo, balance issues, vision changes, speech problems, confusion, lack of focus, forgetfulness, nausea, sleepiness, emotional problems, and other symptoms. To be clear on the language, concussions are also called mild TBIs (traumatic brain injuries).

To simplify what happens in a concussion, imagine your brain is like jello inside a closed container (cranium) cushioned by a thin layer of water (cerebrospinal fluid), with substantial membranes 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 the two hemispheres, receiving the most damage from concussions.

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 state of your health at the time, the severity of the injury, whether you’ve had previous concussions, getting quick and appropriate treatment, and your self-care afterwards.

Scarily, 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, to make sure you’re getting enough fluid. Go for half your body weight in ounces of clean, healthy water each day. (If you weight 150, 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 to reduce inflammation and recover brain function, 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
  • 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 or just don’t want to take a bunch of supplements, I would focus on three: NAC, fish oil, and curcumin, and get the protein, vitamins, and minerals from nutrient-dense food and (Epsom salt baths).

Eat a ketogenic diet.

Going ketogenic (high in fats, moderate protein, low carbs) adds extra protein for 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: pastured eggs, wild salmon, sardines in olive oil, coconut oil, olive oil, walnuts, tomatoes, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, avocados, and wild blueberries (all organic if possible). Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, trans fats and 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 any case, 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 on other injured tissues, energy work, and more 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!

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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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

I’m moving my private practice!

Update: I’ll be seeing people in the new space starting August 16.

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I’m leaving 827 W. 12th Street, where I’ve done my private massage and bodywork practice since October 2012, except for outcalls and occasional work at my trailer.

I’m moving my office to 5524 Bee Cave Road, Suite G1, in Westlake Hills. I’ve been offered an opportunity to relocate to a suite to be shared with two craniosacral therapists whose skills and integrity I greatly admire, Nina Davis and Christian Current.

Workwise, I find myself more drawn toward craniosacral therapy. I start the classical Upledger training in August. I’ve already completed Ryan Hallford’s trainings in classical craniosacral therapy, and the Upledger training will be an expansion on that. I plan to complete Ryan Hallford’s biodynamic training this fall, and I plan to study biodynamic CST with Michael Shea when he returns to Austin next year. Beyond that, there’s more, but my path hasn’t become clear yet. Continue reading

Working from home in the mornings

This morning I got a call from a client I hadn’t seen in a while, wondering if she could get an appointment for bodywork sooner rather than later because she had been experiencing the misery of muscle spasms.

She lives somewhere in south Austin, and I live in Manchaca, and depending on how far south someone lives, it can be more convenient to come to my trailer rather than drive to my downtown studio.  Continue reading

My work in May 2016: a massage therapist recounts what she actually does

I started offering my massage and bodywork clients custom sessions at the beginning of 2016. Clients choose the length of session they want, and when they arrive, we discuss their issues. I figure out how I’d like to proceed (that is, which modalities to use, in which order), run it by the client, get their input and consent, and the work begins. The client and I both know that if we need to change direction in the middle of a session, we can — and sometimes that happens.

Before 2016, clients signed up by length of session and modality (for example, 90 minutes of craniosacral therapy). Once I felt confident about mixing modalities, it made more sense to offer custom sessions, tailoring my work to the client’s needs. But without modality descriptors, I imagine that some people wonder what I actually do in a custom session — and how I work and follow up with clients, how people find me, how my practice grows. That’s the reason for this blog post. Plus, I’ve never really tried to summarize a month of work before. It seems worthwhile.

Continue reading

TMJ massage relieves jaw issues and renews the spirit

A client came to me a couple of weeks ago for 90 minutes of “Whatever Works”. During the session, she learned that I offer TMJ* care sessions and asked a lot of questions about it. She had not known previously that a trained, skilled bodyworker could relieve the symptoms of TMJ disorder – jaw pain and tightness, clenching, grinding, popping, clicking, locking, etc.

I explained to her a bit about the anatomy of the jaw, my TMJ Care package, and the outcomes of my TMJ clients. Since others are likely unaware that trained massage therapists can offer TMJ relief, I’ll share that info here. Continue reading

Board certification achieved!

I just learned that I have successfully jumped through all the hoops on my way to becoming board certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork.

Board certification is a voluntary credential that means:

  • I took an exam and became nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork.
  • I have received over 750 hours of approved massage and bodywork training.
  • I have over 250 hours of work experience in massage and bodywork.
  • I passed a national background check.
  • I maintain CPR certification.
  • I agree to uphold standards of practice and a code of ethics.
  • I oppose human trafficking.

Continue reading

If you want to get better at healing others and/or self, read this blog post

My wonderful craniosacral therapy teacher of the past few years, Ryan Hallford, wrote a blog post entitled Soft Mantras for Hard Lesions. Although specific to biodynamic craniosacral work, in my opinion it applies to so much more – all types of healing work with others and all healing work on self.

ryanSubstitute “stuck places” for lesions and consider his statement that this post is about our mindset when encountering them, and you can understand how applicable this is to all realms of life.

Toward the end of the post, he lists three mantras (internal prayers) that a person intending to heal (self or other) might find helpful to ask.

I’ve read this blog post three times now and decided to write down the questions to carry with me at all times. This is a practice I use when I want to integrate something new into my being. The writing of it helps me commit it to memory as my pen moves across the paper letter by letter, word by word, and carrying the written paper with me signals my commitment to integrate it.  Continue reading