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Head Injury and Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Any blow to the skull is serious, potentially risking brain damage.

Causes of Head Injury

The brain is a soft structure with a filigree of delicate blood vessels entering and leaving it. ll is protected from hard blows and shaking by the strength of the skull all around it.

Head injuries may have a direct impact on the brain by fracturing the skull and damaging the brain beneath, or a less obvious effect by shaking the brain. Any injury causes the brain to swell within the rigid skull, which compresses the base of the brain against the skull. The base of the brain controls certain vital functions, in particular breathing and regulation of the heart, so it is pressure on this structure that often causes more problems than the head injury alone.

Common reasons for head injuries are falls, road traffic accidents and deliberate blows to the skull, especially boxing.

Symptoms of Head Injury

A severe head injury has effects similar to those of a stroke, the exact effect depending on which part of the brain is damaged. ‘there may be paralysis, loss of speech and variable consciousness, if not coma. Less severe effects, such as those caused by shaking, lead to confusion and loss of memory. Injuries that cause bleeding or swelling around the brain may not result in any immediate symptoms until the blood clot or swelling has become large enough to put pressure on the underlying brain. The effects of this pressure can be confusion, double vision, nausea and vomiting, progressive drowsiness, coma or simply a rapid change in personality. If not treated this situation may lead to death through further pressure on the brain’s vital centres.

Brain scans have greatly increased the accuracy of diagnosis of head injuries and especially in detecting blood clots (subdural haemorrhage, extradural haemorrhage) – previously confirmed only by exploratory surgery in which a tap hole was driven through the skull.

Treatment of Head Injury

A serious head injury requires immediate stabilisation of breathing and circulation, both of which are controlled by the brain while removing debris and dealing with the other injuries that so often accompany a severe head injury. Once stable, patients may have to be maintained on a respirator until they regain consciousness. Where the injury appears
milder and there is no obvious damage, it is still important to be vigilant over the next 24-48 hours for any symptoms that might reveal that damage is taking place and is causing increased pressure within the brain.

Rehabilitation follows similar lines to those given to stroke victims, pushing individuals to use their remaining faculties. Head injuries are most common in the young but fortunately, younger brains have better chances of recovery than older brains; even so, rehabilitation may take years.

Complementary Treatment

Chakra balancing can help with relaxation during rehabilitation, as can the Alexander Technique. Chiropractic treatment or osteopathy can help patients with head injuries, as often they will have also suffered neck and back injuries. Treatment aims to restore spinal joint function and mobility, as part of an overall treatment regime. Any treatment listed under Stress can help relieve tension during rehabilitation.

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