Battling Issues From PCS? 3 Symptoms Physical Therapy Can Help Alleviate

Posted on: 1 May 2015

Post-concussion syndrome, which is frequently referred to as PCS by healthcare professionals and affected individuals, is a complex condition with a wide range of symptoms. Some patients only experience mild headaches or occasional bouts of neck pain, while other people have debilitating symptoms, such as extreme fatigue and migraines, that hinder their abilities to tackle everyday tasks. Currently, there is no cure for PCS, but there are actions you can take to manage your symptoms. If you're experiencing any of the symptoms below, visit a physical therapy center as soon as possible so that you can find relief.


Headaches are a common complaint from patients who have PCS and can come in a variety of forms, including migraines and tension headaches. Approximately 90% of patients develop headaches after a concussion, and some patients experience more than one type. The brain does not feel pain, so headaches often stem from a misaligned neck rather than the head itself. This is a condition that a physical therapist can address.

When you first receive physical therapy services, the therapist will do a thorough assessment of your condition, even if you arrive with x-rays or medical notes. This helps ensure that you receive customized treatment for the correct symptoms. After your therapist examines you, you may receive one -- or all -- of the following therapy techniques:

  • Stretching exercises to loosen tense muscles
  • Deep breathing to promote relaxation, especially if stress is suspected as one of your headache-causing culprits
  • Therapeutic massage on the neck, shoulders, forehead, or base of the skull
  • Postural correction, either via chiropractic adjustments or special exercises

Your therapist may also perform techniques that are not on the aforementioned list, if needed. Don't forget to let your specialist know whether you are taking any medications or supplements, as these may affect your treatment plan.


Like headaches, post-concussion dizziness can stem from a neck that is out of whack. Other causes of dizziness after a brain injury include nutritional deficiencies, lack of sleep, anxiety, and problems with the inner ear. Some concussed brains need more nutrients than they did before the injury, because your body is using extra vitamins and minerals to repair itself. Sleep problems are common after a brain injury, as is anxiety. Issues with the inner ear can occur as a result of the impact from the fall or hit that caused your brain injury.

Your therapist will listen to your account of the injury and determine which factors are responsible from your dizziness. Once a culprit is established, your treatment plan may include:

  • Vestibular therapy, which trains your body to cope with inner-ear deficits
  • Exercises that promote balance, such as beam walking 
  • The Epley Maneuver, which is a technique where a trained medical professional gently twists your head around to eliminate vertigo
  • Supplement recommendations, if the dizziness stems from poor dietary habits

Keep in mind that your dizziness may get worse during therapy or after your first few sessions. Do not cancel future appointments, as it takes time to see results.

Cognitive Issues

Rehabilitation services focus on the mind as well as the body, not just sore muscles or other types of physical pain. If you develop cognitive issues after a concussion, a physical therapist can help train your brain to adjust to your current situation. Some physical therapists are experts in Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy (CRT), which is the term used to describe innovative treatments for folks with cognitive problems that stem from a brain injury. Even if the therapist you visit doesn't offer CRT, you may still find other physical therapy services helpful, such as:

  • Gentle physical exercises, as some healthcare professionals believe that exercise improves memory and prevents future memory issues from occurring 
  • Memory exercises
  • Stress management, if some of your cognitive issues are triggered or worsened by anxiety and/or depression

A brain injury affects each individual in a different way, so it's difficult to predict the exact remedies your physical therapist will use for your condition. Make sure that you mention all of your symptoms during the initial consultation, even ones that seem insignificant, so your healthcare provider can address them during treatment.

Some PCS patients experience symptoms for more than a year. That's a long time to be in pain from a chronic condition, so it's important to take steps to help yourself feel a bit better. Visiting a physical therapist might not completely eliminate your symptoms, but it can help you feel well enough to enjoy life again.  Click here for more information on physical therapy services in your area.