Although brain injury symptoms may subside enough for you to return to daily life, trauma to the brain can continue to subtly wreak havoc on how your body functions and feels for month and even years later. For instance, many people notice their hormone function isn't the same after a brain injury.
Your hormonal command center - the hypothalamus and pituitary gland - is in the brain. Although a head injury may occur in an isolated area, the vast networks of communication across the entire brain mean that damage to one area affects the entire brain. And because the brain runs the body, it only makes sense daily operations of the body take a hit too.
Estimates on how many people suffer from hormone disorders caused by brain injury vary, however, one study of 1,000 patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) found almost 30 percent had compromised pituitary function.
The hormonal systems most impacted are the sex hormones, growth hormones (which adults need for bone and muscle strength), and adrenal, or stress, hormones. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can surface immediately or months or even years later.
Common hormone symptoms related to brain injury include fatigue, weight gain, low blood pressure, low libido, loss of muscle mass, and amenorrhea. Children may have growth problems later.
More severe repercussions can include Addison's disease (adrenal insufficiency), diabetes insipidus (which causes intense thirst and heavy urination), or hyponatremia (abnormally low sodium).
How functional neurology and functional medicine can help restore hormone function
Why will two people with the same TBI have two wildly different responses hormonally? In functional neurology and functional medicine, we know one reason is the health of the brain prior to injury. For instance, one person eats a healthy diet, avoids inflammatory foods, isn't already struggling with depression or anxiety, does not have advanced brain inflammation, and exercises regularly. This person may experience a good and swift recovery after a TBI.
However, take the the person who lives on a pizza and mac-and-cheese, unaware that a gluten and dairy sensitivity are causing immune attacks on the brain. They also drink soda every day, sit gaming or working for hours instead of getting any exercise, and work or live in a stressful, toxic environment. This person likely already has hormonal imbalances and a highly inflamed brain. A brain injury is going to be much more devastating as a result.
Also, hormonal status in midlife can play a big role in how the brain responds to injury as the sex hormones are highly protective of the brain. For the woman or man who experiences a steep decline in hormone production in midlife, their brain is much more vulnerable to damage and slower recovery after a TBI.
You may think hormone replacement therapy is the answer, and in some people it may be, but in functional neurology we look at the various dietary and lifestyle conditions that create hormonal imbalances and work to address those.
We customize rehabilitative functional neurology strategies based on the type of damage a patient's brain received and pre-existing metabolic health.
We also examine and address the function of related systems, such as the vestibular system, or inner ear; the vagus nerve, an information highway that connects the brain to the organs; and the visual system. Working with these systems, which are so integral to brain function, is a vital to rehabilitation.
If your hormones have been out of whack since your concussion, or brain injury, ask my office how we can help. You can all our office at 317-848-6000 or contact Dr. Ralston directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back pain complaints are often met with instruction to build up your core strength, and indeed this is important for better stability and protection for your back. But building core strength helps in another important way — it activates areas of the brain that can enhance stability, reduce pain, and naturally improve posture.
When many people think of the core, they think of six-pack abs we see on gym posters. But the core is basically the entire trunk of your body. The core includes the:
Many people develop chronic back pain because of a undiagnosed brain imbalance. The brain coordinates with the eyes and the inner ear to perceive where it is in relation to the environment.
When that information is incorrectly interpreted due to a brain imbalance, the brain may believe the body is falling forward or backwards. To compensate, it adjusts the posture to lean in the opposite direction of the perceived fall. This all happens without a person’s conscious awareness, and can start in infancy.
This constant over correcting creates not only bad posture, but also areas of muscular weakness and tension that affect the spine and other parts of the body, often resulting in chronic pain. These people may also find standing for a short length of time causes fatigue and back pain.
It’s also not uncommon for people with this issue to struggle with anxiety — the constant sense of falling is a source of chronic stressor that can manifest as anxiety, fatigue, and mood swings.
People often report a reduction in back pain and better posture when they take on a core strengthening program. Although strengthening and stretching the core muscles is a vital part of that rehabilitation, it also exercises the midline cerebellum, the area of the brain responsible for, among other things, movement, coordination, and posture. By repeatedly activating the core muscles, you are stimulating this part of the brain.
How do you know if brain imbalances play a role in your back pain or posture, and whether core exercises can help you?
The best way is to conduct your own field sobriety test — that’s right, the same one cops give to suspected drunk drivers. This is because being drunk also affects the cerebellum. It’s not uncommon for people with posture and back pain issues to also have poor balance due to a cerebellar issue.
A core strengthening program should emphasize good form so you don’t risk injuring yourself. It should also include attention to stability and alignment. A brain imbalance will often cause a person to stand or lie crooked when they think they are straight because the brain is incorrectly perceiving the body’s position.
Pilates is one excellent core strengthening technique that incorporates these strategies along with mindfulness and breath work, which are also great brain rehabilitators.
If you have back pain, poor balance, anxiety, mood issues, gut problems, a previous brain injury, or other symptoms, a functional neurology rehabilitation protocol may be the vital boost you need. Many times when people get stuck on a functional medicine protocol, it’s because a brain-based issue is promoting inflammation and metabolic imbalances.
Ask my office for more information on how we can help you achieve better brain health. You can reach us at 317-848-6000 or contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com.