by Jonathan Chung, DC
Survivors of domestic violence are one of the highest risk populations for traumatic brain injury. As many as 30% of adult women will report an episode of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. A study from the Barrow Neurological Institute has shown some stunning statistics about this population:
- 88% will suffer injuries to multiple body regions
- 81% will report a loss of consciousness
- 84% report psychiatric disease or mental illness
Here is the number that prompted me to write this article:
- Just 21% will seek help at the time of injury
When we consider that many of these patients are likely suffering from forms of traumatic brain injury, the idea that fewer than a quarter of these patients are seeking help at the time of injury is heartbreaking.
We know that patients who begin rehabilitation earlier are likely to have better outcomes.
We know that the stress and anxiety of living in an abusive household will worsen cognitive, psychiatric, and musculoskeletal pain outcomes.
We know that repeated trauma to the head is likely to lead to more structural changes in the brain.
And we know that the longer someone endures post-concussive symptoms, the odds of recovery from their brain injury symptoms goes down precipitously.
It is hard enough to help patients with prolonged symptoms after traumatic brain injury when we do everything correctly. The injuries sustained from victims of domestic violence have to battle the enemy of time as well. There’s no question that the mechanism and sociological factors that lead to these brain injuries introduce more challenges than a sports-related concussion.
While there are many obstacles to overcome in the recovery from a brain injury, there is still hope for improvement with the right treatment. The key is that these patients more than any other need a multi-disciplinary approach to care. Many clinics that see sports-related concussions will have therapies in place to address cervical, vestibular/oculomotor, and physiologic elements of rehabilitation. However, patients that come from the trauma of domestic violence will likely benefit from psychological/psychiatric interventions, movement disorder specialties, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.
There’s no question that any delay in proper treatment can affect clinical results in traumatic brain injury, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be hope for improvement in pain and quality of life. Patients with brain injury from a domestic abuse situation are in a bind that may prevent them from getting the necessary care, but understanding some of the potential long-term consequences may be a factor that can help these patients survive and escape a terrible situation.
Jonathan Chung, DC is the founder and upper cervical chiropractor at Keystone Chiropractic and Neuroplasticity in Wellington, Florida. Learn more about their cervical vestibular rehabilitation program at www.chiropractickeystone.com