Traumatic Brain Injury Definition, Symptoms, Causes and the Most Efficient Treatments

Brain injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a violent blow or jolt to the head or body.

Such injuries can have both mild or more severe effects on the brain, and the consequences may result in long-term complications or even death, depending on the degree of the harm.

Patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are usually dealing with intense headaches that are often treated with strong medications that may affect other organs. Instead of such an approach, experienced healthcare practitioners recommend acupuncture as one of the options that help patients go through a tough period of rehabilitation.

Acupuncture for TBI is quickly becoming recognized as one of the most effective and efficient methods for relieving the symptoms of headaches and migraines caused by brain injuries. Certified practitioners usually perform auricular (ear) acupuncture, scalp acupuncture and traditional Chinese approaches for a combination has given better and more measurable results than most traditional approaches alone.

The following post will reveal more essential facts about traumatic brain injury symptoms, causes and efficient treatments, among which is acupuncture.

Try Acupuncture for TBI Symptoms at Makari Wellness

Michael Woodworth, a certified acupuncturist from San Diego, CA, has been devoting to patients with neurological problems since 2012.

His goal is to help people recover from TBI and stroke through acupuncture, which happens to be one of the most effective methods for treating, mitigating and eliminating the consequences of such conditions.

Thanks to the combination of Western medicine, Eastern approaches, and Traditional Chinese medicine, Makari Wellness provides the best practices of acupuncture San Diego can offer.


What is TBI?

A traumatic brain injury, also known as TBI, is described as a blow to the head or a penetrating brain injury that affects the normal function of the brain.

It usually arises when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue. It can be caused by different factors such as car accidents, motorcycle crashes, sports injuries, falls and more, and the consequences vary from mild to more severe ones.

To mitigate the effects of TBI, patients will need to go through a rehabilitation process to recover and learn some skills again since they often face long-lasting effects in their physical, emotional and mental abilities.

What are the Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury?

When the injury occurs, the skull may or may not be fractured. However, as the brain crashes back and forth inside the skull causing bleeding, bruising and tearing of nerve fibers, a patient may be confused and without a clue what happened.

Despite the presence of the mentioned symptoms, a person may seem fine at first, but their condition will worsen rapidly. After the initial injury, a brain undergoes a delayed trauma – it swells and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood.

TBI symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may occur days or weeks later. TBI can be divided into three categories – mild traumatic brain injury, moderate and severe traumatic brain injury and children’s TBI, and each of them manifests differently.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Mild traumatic brain injury is defined by a lesser degree of brain damage, and it usually brings only brief or no loss of consciousness. During mild TBI, people are awake, their eyes are open, and they may feel disorientation and memory loss.

The sings and symptoms of this type of TBI include:

Physical symptoms

  • Dizziness, confusion, disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Sense of tiredness and fatigue
  • Speech problems
  • Sleeping issues
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Loss of balance

Sensory symptoms

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • An unusual taste in the mouth
  • Changes in the ability to smell

Cognitive and mental symptoms

  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Mood changes and mood swings
  • Depression or anxiety

Moderate and Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

A line between moderate and severe TBI is thin – symptoms that arise due to moderate TBI include all the signs of the mild condition plus some that can lead to a critical state, which may put a patient’s life in danger.

A person whose condition is diagnosed as moderate seems lethargic, but her eyes open to stimulations. Loss of consciousness may last from 20 minutes to 6 hours.

A severe traumatic brain injury results in a person’s inability to open the eyes even with stimulation and unconsciousness that lasts more than 6 hours.

Physical symptoms

  • Persistent headaches that worsen
  • Vomiting or nausea that repeats
  • Seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Clear fluids that drain from eyes or ears
  • Inability to awaken from asleep
  • Numbness in toes and fingers
  • Loss of coordination

Cognitive and mental symptoms

  • Profound confusion
  • Unusual behavior
  • Indistinct speech
  • Severe disorders of consciousness, including coma

TBI In Children

Children and infants might not be able to communicate headaches, sensory problems and similar symptoms that come as a result of brain injury. Still, you should take them to the hospital if you notice some of the following signs:

  • Change in nursing, eating, or any habits
  • Easy irritability
  • Persistent crying
  • Change in ability to focus
  • Changed sleep habits
  • Seizures
  • Sadness or depression
  • Loss of interest in activities and favorite toys

People may react differently to brain injuries, which leads to more or less severe complications that may result in infections, vertigo, vegetative state, degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, or even brain death.

What are the Most Common Traumatic Brain Injury Causes?

TBI is usually caused by a blow or other traumatic hit to the head or body. A brain damage degree will depend on many factors, such as the nature of the injury and the force of the shock. Some of the most common traumatic brain injury causes are:

  • Falls: Falls from a ladder, bed, stairs, and those in the bath can be dangerous for both children and adults since they can cause severe brain injuries.
  • Car and motorcycle accidents: Traffic collisions are responsible for most of the injuries that affect the brain. Make sure you’re wearing a helmet while riding a bike or a motorcycle since that’s one of the best ways of protection from head contusion.
  • Violence: Violence that manifests in gunshot wounds, and domestic and child abuse is also one of the common TBI causes. Violent shaking of infants usually leads to a so-called shaken baby syndrome, which can cause severe trauma.
  • Sport-related injuries: Sports such as football, soccer, baseball, hockey, kick-boxing and other extreme sports can cause serious brain injuries that leave long-term consequences.
  • Explosions: Explosions are the most common military-related TBI causes, despite the inability to fully understand the connection between blast and damage. However, it is believed that pressure wave passing through the brain disrupts the brain function significantly.

Note that TBI can be triggered by penetrating wounds from bullets, severe blows to the head with debris or shrapnel and collisions with objects followed by a blast.

How is Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?

Traumatic brain injury worsens quickly, which is why doctors need to react immediately. There are several ways of diagnosing TBI:

  • Glasgow Coma Scale: This is a 15-point test that helps doctors determine the level of a person’s brain injury. They check a patient’s ability to follow directions and move their eyes and limbs. These abilities are scored from 3 to 15; if a person shows higher scores, it means that he or she has less severe damages.
  • Questions about injury and symptoms: Doctors will ask several questions regarding the damage since that’s how they’ll get information vital for assessing the person’s condition.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests can be obtained by:
    • Computerized tomography scan (CT): A CT scan consists of a series of X-rays that create a detailed image of the brain. It helps doctors detect the fractures, bleeding in the brain, hematomas, contusions, and brain tissue swelling.
    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI produces robust radio waves and magnets that create a comprehensive view of a patient’s brain. This test is usually performed after a patient’s condition stabilizes or if symptoms don’t improve after some time.

What is the Coding for Traumatic Brain Injury?

If the person’s been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, he or he will be assigned a specific ICD-10-CM S06.2X9D code that can be used to indicate the diagnosis for reimbursement purposes.

Traumatic brain injury ICD 10 refers to diffuse traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness of unspecified duration and it can prove that you’re eligible for treatment reimbursements. Such a code became effective on October 1, 2019.

Before TBI ICD 10, people with such a diagnose were using a billable ICD9 code for traumatic brain injury, which was valid until September 30, 2015. It was also used for reimbursement purposes.

What is the Most Effective Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment?

TBI treatment depends mostly on injury degree.

Therefore, if you’re diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury, you’ll be advised to rest and take pain relievers in order to mitigate headaches. Although the person may stay at home, she needs to be consistently monitored for any new symptoms that could worsen the situation.

Your traumatic brain injury doctor may prescribe certain medications that would limit secondary damage to the brain right after the injury. Such remedies may include diuretics, anti-seizure drugs and coma-inducing drugs.

Some emergency cases may require immediate surgery that would minimize the risk of brain tissue damage.

Surgeries are usually aimed at removing hematomas, repairing skull fractures, stop bleeding in the brain, and opening a window in the skull.

Regardless of the injury degree, every patient should go through the rehabilitation process that will help them relearn the skills, improve their abilities and come back to the life they used to live before the accident.

Therapies usually begin in the hospital and continue at the rehabilitation unit. The type and duration of treatments will depend on the patients, their condition, the severity of the brain injury, and the part of the brain that was affected.

A typical rehabilitation process includes the assistance of a physiatrist, physical therapist, neuropsychiatrist, occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist, and other specialists that monitor your condition and help you during the recovery. Just now, in acknowledgement of acupuncture’s superior results in treating stroke and neurological conditions- Western medicine is recognizings it as an effective therapy for more acute neurological conditions.

In addition to this rehabilitation process, patients who decide for acupuncture, have shown remarkable outcomes in treating TBI so far. However, many people aren’t aware of its benefits and efficiency, which is why we’re going to provide you with some fundamental information about the entire treatment.

Acupuncture for TBI

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese medicine, and it’s widely used around China, Japan, Europe, and the USA.

It involves the insertion of small, thin and stainless steel needles into specific body areas called acupoints, and it’s beneficial for treating pain, ocular diseases, stroke consequences, and other degenerative and neurological conditions.

One of the crucial benefits of acupuncture treatment for TBI lies in its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, as well as in the fact that the therapy usually brings no potential side effects.

However, it’s vital to know that not every patient will respond to treatments in the same way. Someone will need more than one session to notice any improvements, while someone else may feel better after a couple of series.

How Acupuncture Helps Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery?

Due to the fact that patients with TBI usually suffer from severe headaches, anxiety, depression, and other conditions that affect their health, acupuncture is considered quite efficient traumatic brain injury treatment.

It is known that acupuncture therapy is widely practiced for treating the symptoms of the above-mentioned conditions, which is why it’s been used for helping patients deal with TBI recovery.

The acupuncture style that’s mostly used for TBI treatment is so-called battlefield acupuncture (BFA), which involves the insertion of small and thin needles on the outer ear, making sure they stay there for two to four days, providing additional pain relief.

This style has been developed by the U.S. military, whose goal was replacing the medications and reducing side effects caused by them. It was primarily performed to military personnel in order to prevent further opioid abuse, but its effects have shown remarkable outcomes in treating TBI, as well.

Measurable Outcomes

The research about acupuncture treatment for traumatic brain injuries conducted in 2015 showed significant results regarding a patient’s improvement.

The patient who began the acupuncture treatment was injured during a high-speed snowboarding accident. His GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) was a 3T, which indicated the worst degree of the condition – his motor abilities, eye response, and voice were almost gone. When he woke up, he had retrograde amnesia.

Since he was diagnosed with a severe TBI, the patient was dealing with paralysis, where his left side was stiff, and the right side was flaccid with tremors.

When the patient first appeared to acupuncture treatment, he had decreased cognitive ability, he was unable to walk, his speech was slurry, he had double-vision, numbness, and other symptoms that prevented him from performing everyday activities.

He had already gone to speech and physical therapies, including strengthening exercises and balance training, but he wanted to try acupuncture in order to see whether he’d notice some improvements.

A TBI specialist at the acupuncture clinic determined the exact acupoints whose stimulation could impact, move and regulate Qi (chee) and blood flow. Such acupoints were located mostly on shoulders and face, but the practitioner also included scalp acupuncture that impacted the improvement of motor and sensory abilities.

The patient went to two separate treatment periods – one lasted 57, and the other 38 weeks – after which he noticed significant changes in his condition. His medical results had shown increased mobility, improved vision, and even the ability to perform some more demanding activities such as swimming and snowboarding.

The patient’s progression was gradual, but he claimed that he felt much better after the series of acupuncture treatments. He was paralyzed when he came to the clinic, and 228 weeks after, he could go swimming, watch 3D movies and do much more stuff, which is remarkable.

Although the progression and therapy response depends on the patient, we can say that 85% of people have shown positive results so far, which is a great number. The case studies and researches relentlessly contribute to the development of acupuncture, intending to raise people’s awareness of the benefits of this treatment.

Photobiomodulation (PBM) for TBI

Photobiomodulation (PBM) is another treatment for traumatic brain injury that has been used for relieving pain and mitigating the consequences of TBI.

It is also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), and it involves the application of red and near infra-red lights over injuries or lesions to improve wound, reduce inflammation and relieve both acute and chronic pain.