Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can effectively treat long-term symptoms of concussions, study finds
Mild traumatic brain injuries can lead to serious and long-term neurological effects including impaired cognitive function related to memory, reasoning, communication
If you were to ask around, you might be hard-pressed to find a single person who has never experienced a mild blow, bump or jolt to the head. When you bump your head into something, the likelihood of it causing a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is high. However, not every person who’s ever had a concussion has long-term symptoms or chronic concussion. Prolonged symptoms of mTBI can be a lifelong problem that leads to different types of impairments.
The long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injury
According to a study published in Scientific Reports in 2018, mTBIs can lead to serious and long-term neurological effects including impaired cognitive function related to memory, reasoning, communication and emotion. mTBIs can also cause problems in movement coordination, balance, ocular movement and function, and social behaviour, leading to a considerable decrease in the quality of life. Recent studies have also linked the long-term effects of chronic concussion with a high risk of developing dementia and depression.
While many therapeutic avenues like rest, physiotherapy, etc are recommended for mTBIs, people with prolonged symptoms often find their condition does not resolve for years on end, intensifying damage to the brain in the longer run. A new study published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being suggests that it is this long-term resolution that may be possible with interventions like yoga and meditation.
Yoga and meditation for long-term rehabilitation
The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr Rebecca Acabchuk at the University of Connecticut, was conducted keeping the long-term impact of invisible brain injuries in mind. Acabchuk, who is reportedly a trained yoga instructor with 17 years of experience, was inspired to take this line of research about yoga and mTBIs due to existing research already supporting the fact that yoga can be used to reduce inflammatory biomarkers associated with a number of chronic conditions. For her study, Acabchuk and her team conducted a first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of 20 different studies that involved yoga, meditation, mindfulness-interventions and brain injuries.
Overall, the 20 studies had a total of 539 subjects. The researchers analysed the impact of yoga, meditation and mindfulness-interventions on a number of outcome categories including mental health, physical health, cognitive performance, quality of life, social and occupational performance. They also analysed the risks of specific health outcomes like depression, attention, anxiety and fatigue.
The researchers found through their meta-analysis that all participants who went through yoga, meditation and mindfulness programmes showed significant improvements in overall symptoms, with symptoms linked to fatigue and depression showing the greatest improvement across all the studies. Other areas that showed promising improvements were mental health, physical health, cognitive performance, self-related processing and overall quality of life.
In conclusion, the researchers admit that this study was small and had some limitations, and that further research is indeed needed to corroborate the findings. However, they also highlight the fact that unlike drug treatments or surgeries, interventions like yoga, meditation and mindfulness have little or no side-effects. Hence, giving all of these a try cannot harm someone suffering from the long-term symptoms of mTBIs. In fact, they might prove to be quite beneficial in improving health parameters and reducing the risks of serious ailments like dementia and depression.
For more information, read our article on Concussion.
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