Acupuncture for post-concussion syndrome headache and dizziness

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is commonly caused by a trauma to the head from a fall, vehicle accident or sports injury. It is a mild traumatic brain injury. The common symptoms of PCS referred neurological disorders, psychological disorders and behavioral disorders, and some involved digestive and sensory organ disorders, and many more. The main symptom of PCS is headache. PCS patients often have headache of the same type they experienced before the injury, or more frequent or longer-lasting headaches than they did before the injury. The second most common symptom of PCS is dizziness and balance problems. It occurs accompanying headache and worsen with movement of head or neck, limiting movement of head. For severe cases, people cannot drive or watch TV, etc. PCS patients also commonly complain of psychological and emotional problems that appear after trauma, sometimes these are the main conditions for visiting, such as stress, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity of mind, attention deficits, difficulty sustaining mental effort, impulsivity, irritability, low frustration threshold, temper outbursts and changes in mood, sleep disturbance, communication difficulties or socially inappropriate behaviors, etc.

PCS patients may be show other symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness, learning and memory problems, impaired planning and problem solving, inflexibility, concrete thinking, lack of initiative, dissociation between thoughts and action, self-centeredness and lack of insight, poor self-awareness, personality changes, sensitivity, to light or noise, nausea, and drowsiness, vomiting, vision disturbances, decreased or changed sense of taste or smell, hearing problems, tinnitus or loss of hearing, and numbness or tremble of hands.

These symptoms of PCS may persist for years or for a lifetime. Patients with these complex conditions similar to above don’t realize these symptoms are due to trauma because of light injuries, such as falling on the floor, or an injury of a long time ago and it is often misdiagnosed. Only after detail checking and inquiry history could get the causes for these symptoms. Often, despite several of these chronic symptoms being present, there is no evidence of brain abnormality from conventional structural neuroimaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs. As so far, information about pathological changes of concussion syndrome is not clear, but it is generally considered that the outcome is a function of brain concussion and not change on the anatomy.

Following Chinese Medicine, the problem of PCS is due to the blockage of the meridians and deficiency of energy that link with the brain, classify under the shen disorder. Acupuncture has been used to treat trauma and symptoms from after trauma in China for a long time, and it includes PCS. From clinical perspective, acupuncture is definitely helpful for PCS. The technique includes auricular acupuncture, manual acupuncture, electric acupuncture and scapula acupuncture. From clinical observation, acupuncture not only improves neurological disorders, but also helps psychological disorders and behavioral disorders in PCS. In acupuncture clinics we observed that in cases of PCS, it don’t matter how long of history, from couple months to 16 years, patients had obvious improvement of symptoms after acupuncture treatment. The common used acupuncture points include DU20, Yintang, Tiayang, ST36, 37, 25, SP6, LI4, SJ17, DU14, 13, 12, Sishencong, GB20, UB10 and Shenmen, etc.

As an example, a patient was complaining of headache, dizziness and anxiety for 1 year after car accident. She was 20 year-old female who had been diagnosed with post-concussion and had been taking medicine but couldn’t get good results. The main symptoms were dizziness, stiffness and frontal headache. She also had stiffness and pain in the neck and occipital head, it worsen in class or when she parties and when she drive, and was accompanied with imbalance of body. She also had upper back pain and pain with tinging in arm and hand on her left side. She had stress, anxiety and depression, and her mood changed after the car accident. Her memory was poor and it was difficult to pay attention and focus in class, difficult to follow instructor speaking. Sometime she has heart palpitation and panic attached in public area. She had fatigue and weakness of body. She had nasal congestion, sometime with white discharge. Sometimes she has poor vision and double vision. Her appetite was normal, no acid reflux or heart burning, her BMS once a day, sometimes nausea with dizziness get worse.

Examination showed tenderness and painful sensation at a slight touch or pressure as detailed below. There were painful sensations in her neck at the GB20 to UB10, C2 to C7 at a slight touch, where she placed at 4-6/10 on pain levels. Slight touch to her head on front was also painful, reported as 3-4/10 levels. Slight touch to her upper back at T1 to T5 was also painful, reported as 2-4/10. Slight touch to her face at cheek and corner of eyes was also painful, reported as 2-3/10. The Ears Pressure Test showed that there was significant painful sensation to touch in the corresponding parts of her head, neck, waist, leg, shenmen and stomach. She described her level of pain in these areas as 6-7/10. Her tongue was medium sized, teeth mark on the edge with pale red, a thin white color. Her pulse was thin and weak in both.

After acupuncture treatments follow above acupuncture prescription for a few sessions, her headache and dizziness improved, and the pain on her upper back, tingling on arm and head on left side, and other conditions such anxiety, poor sleep, memory problems also improved.