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Concussion, eye strain, eye fatigue, trauma, PTSD

Concussion and Eye function Recovery

March 3, 2015

I recently had a concussion. Of course I want to get better as fast as possible. I am using the skills I know to help others, to help myself. My route to rapid recovery may help you to understand ways to either help yourself or someone else.

One problem area for me was difficulty focusing my eyes. Normally both eyes work together. It’s as if a person has a flashlight beam coming from each eye and they meet up together, either close in front of your face, or outwards at a distance. My “beams” weren’t coming to the same point in space. It was as it they could come near each other but never met. The effort in my eye muscles was considerably higher than normal just to get my eyes to work somewhere close to optimal….but not making it. There are several technical names for this problem. One is convergence insufficiency.

This failure of the eyes to be able to aim to the same place can come about from a brain injury. It can also come about from a response to a dangerous or traumatic situation.

In my particular situation, I was standing on the grass by the country road by my front gate. I’d just gotten off my horse because he was acting spooky from the wind. After settling him down somewhat, I became distracted by a conversation struck up by a passing neighbor. I was looking at Bob. Something spooked my horse and he jumped right into me. I caught the motion of his rapidly oncoming black shape from the periphery of my vision.

A person’s brain has a mode of operation that is all about monitoring the world for danger. When this mode is intensively and instinctively switched on, it can cause each eye to work independently of the other eye. The eyes separate into very wide, divergent gaze. This kind of eye function enables a bigger field of view. The widening of the eyes to the sides broadens the ability to perceive and react to danger approaching. Good response for the danger situation but a bad state to be stuck in for normal eye functioning which requires focus and convergence.

In my situation, it helped me to notice trouble coming my way, fast. My hands flew up in front of me in enough time to keep a little space between my horse, Sharouf, and myself. But, his thousand pounds was too much for my balance ability. I went over backwards slamming my head into the ground. It felt like I was a quarterback getting sacked in the NFL. And I have no business being out there in a NFL game.

It is possible that my subsequent eye fatigue and trouble focusing was due to the concussion I got. I also thought it was possible to be from the danger-alert-function of my brain. Correction of the danger-alert system is the “low hanging fruit” in the recovery process. It is not about resting and waiting for the brain to recover although that is certainly a component of concussion recovery.

Correcting the stuck danger-alert mode involved processing the danger in small chunks, and re-establishing a felt sense of movement in the upper neck joints, the eye tracking ability, the balance ability, and a re-write of my memory of the event to create more protection then I actually had.

There are many ways to therapeutically modulate a frightening memory into one that is less overwhelming. One way to increase a sense of safety and protection is to be larger. While doing a therapy session processing the loss of my control by being struck, I imagined I was that huge blue horse statue that “greets” arrivals at Denver International Airport. I don’t particularly like the sculpture, but it sure worked to help me imagine being so big that my horse bounced off me instead of the other way around.

Feeling myself able to stand my ground increased my feeling of safety and protection. This helped my instincts to finish up the behavior saving me. I paid attention to the feeling of my eyes re-organizing back into normal paired and focused vision. Creating and supporting a sense of safety helps the body complete movement patterns. That was important for my eyes and head. More of the lingering muscle spasm, tension, and strain resolved, leaving me that much closer to fully recovered.

I had help to do the above therapy work from several sources, and from my own understanding of the process. And, it really helped get my eyes back on track.

In a nutshell, here’s what I did.
Chiropractic 2 times to help reduce muscle spasm in upper neck/head muscles that clenched my head onto my neck in a position off to the side.
Practice of protective reactions multiple days either by myself or with gentle support to my head and neck. Actions like feeling my hands come up, feeling my eyes separate, adding in better defenses then I really had, feeling the fear and freeze up reaction cycle through several times all were part of speeding up my recovery.

Hope that helps you understand some ideas about recovery from concussion.
Rachel

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