The combination of breathing exercises and slow aerobic exercises can be beneficial to teenagers who are regaining gradually from a concussion. The latest research has found that although both therapies offer advantages, they also resulted in a greater improvements in memory and thinking abilities, mood and depression.
The findings will be presented to be presented in Boston and on the internet at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, from April 22 to.
“When someone has a concussion, it can affect the body’s autonomic nervous system, and it is increasingly clear that this underlies the inability to tolerate exercise, problems with thinking skills and mood issues in those with persisting symptoms,” said the study’s lead researcher R. Davis Moore, an assistant professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina.
“Our study used a handheld biofeedback device to help people train their breathing to match their heart rate patterns,” Moore stated in a news release about the meeting. “This can help balance the autonomic nervous system and manage symptoms.”
Concussion recovery is thought to be slow when it takes longer than a month for the symptoms like headaches dizziness, depression mood disorders, memory problems and attention issues to be resolved.
Heart rate variability refers to the time interval between heartbeats.
For instance, a person could have a range of 60-100 beats per minute. Following a concussion, everyone suffers from changes at the rate of which they experience, but usually recover to normal after several weeks. In some cases, the changes last like they’re stuck during the time frame that was the time of the injury.
The study involved 30 teens who suffered from symptoms for longer than a month following getting injured in games or other recreation.
Researchers classified them into three groups that were matched by gender, age physical activity level, as well as body mass index, which is an estimate of fat mass based on weight and height.
One group practiced biofeedback. They practiced breathing at a an extremely slow pace using an electronic program for 20 minutes every evening, and four times each week.
The other group exercised with three sessions per week. The first workout was 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. The intensity gradually increased and duration.
The third group performed biofeedback as well as exercise.
Researchers assessed their symptoms of concussion and heart rate variability mood, sleep, and memory abilities at the beginning of the study and after six weeks.
The entire group experienced improvements in levels of sleep, mood, and autonomic functions — processes that include blood pressure, heartbeat and digestion. The participants in the biofeedback group as well as the exercise group showed greater improvements than those who exercised or biofeedback by themselves.
The reduction in severity of symptoms was twice as high as that of the group exercising, and 1.3 times more than the reductions who were in the biofeedback study.
The whole group also experienced an 1.2 times higher improvement in the symptoms associated with depression as compared to exercising alone, and 1.3 times more than biofeedback by itself.
The patients in the combined treatment also saw greater than 1.4 more reductions in overall mood disturbance than the other two groups in addition to significantly more gains in attention and working memory. They experienced more significant changes in the metrics of heart rate variability than the two other groups, too.
“Managing persistent concussion symptoms is particularly challenging as there are no standard therapies,” Moore explained. “These therapies are inexpensive, easy to implement, and can be self-administered, making them feasible and accessible for everyone with persistent symptoms.”
The study’s only drawback is that it didn’t include an uncontrolled group of participants who had no treatment to compare. The findings are preliminary and must be tested on larger numbers of people, the researchers stated.