Post Concussion Syndrome

An Insiders Look at Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Post Concussion Syndrome.

Bryan Johnson is a wonderful hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) clinician who I have been personally treated by many times. I found amazing results within my first few visits with Bryan including: clearer thinking, better focus, higher energy, desensitization of my scalp, headache evaporation, an overall sense of well being, and many other improvements. Bryan has conducted thousands of HBOT sessions in Los Angeles at his clinic O2 UP ( I have had such a success story with Bryan and HBOT. Because of this, I wanted to pick Bryan's brain regarding HBOT and head injuries and share it with all you that may be interested. Here's what Bryan had to say. 

Bryan Johnson - a HBOT Clinicians perspective. 

I’ve seen some great healings occur at O2 UP. The patients we’ve helped, range from those suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, to those with migraine headaches, patients with Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue, lyme disease, autism, professional athletes healing after an injury, and so many others.

 While I’ve seen impressive healing within these groups of conditions, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) is where I see the most consistent healing occur.

 Yet with all of the results I see firsthand, I’m continually confused by the fact that more doctors don’t  educate their patients  about HBOT as an option after a TBI. If nothing else, I hope that this post can at least educate you about what HBOT is, how it works, why there are discrepancies in reporting its efficacy, and what I’ve seen firsthand.  


What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

  To put it simply, HBOT has two main components -- pressure and concentrated oxygen.  During treatments the patient is usually lying down in pressurized chamber breathing concentrated oxygen. The pressure created by the chamber helps the body to become saturated with oxygen.  You can think of this process as being somewhat analogous to creating soda water.  To create soda water you need carbon dioxide, water, and pressure.  The pressure pushes the CO2 into the water giving you a fluid that is holding a gas.  In HBOT, the gas we use is oxygen and your body, being made up of mostly water, becomes the vessel for that oxygen.  This process is grounded firmly in physics and is pretty simple for most people to get their heads around.  How the body then uses the oxygen towards its advantage becomes a more hotly debated topic.  

How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?

To those that see HBOT work on a daily basis, we would tell you that hyperbarics super-saturates the body with oxygen, decreases inflammation, promotes stem cell growth, and helps to grow new blood vessels (a process called angiogenesis).  What all of this is basically saying is that HBOT promotes healing!  Whether this healing happens with a wound that won’t heal on a diabetic patient’s foot, or a wound that can’t be seen since it’s internal, like the bruising you might find on a concussed brain; the benefit is all the same.  Oxygen helps the cells to promote healing in these areas.  

Doctors don't prescribe HBOT. Why?

Surprisingly enough, many doctors don’t feel that hyperbarics provides much benefit to patients.  The feeling is often that the body is already delivering enough oxygen through its normal respiratory process to provide the oxygen needed for healing.  Many doctors also feel that the studies done on hyperbarics for many conditions have not conclusively proven that there is benefit. This is why they won’t tell their patients about it or they flat out discourage its use.  

However, to gain better perspective on this difference in opinion I think we should look at the principles of how oxygen would support the brain after an injury, how some of the studies on HBOT and brain injuries were conducted, and some first-hand experiences.  From there you can make your own conclusions.  


Your Brain needs oxygen

  Many people aren’t even aware of how energy-intensive of an organ their brain is.  We can better understand this by looking at the sheer amount of oxygen that it utilizes. Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen your body takes in, this is a huge amount for an organ that only weighs about 3 pounds. When an injury to the brain is sustained, there are a chain of events that ensue, directing blood-flow, releasing chemicals throughout the brain, and processes meant to deal with the shock of the injury.  However, due to these reactions and the inflammation that takes place, your injured brain isn’t necessarily getting the oxygen it needs to adequately heal.  This is the theory on why getting oxygen to the brain through the use of hyperbarics is thought to work.  Even without an injury your brain needs 20% of your body’s oxygen intake, so after an injury wouldn’t it make sense to give it even more to help with repair work?  Many people would intuitively arrive at this reasoning and in fact, there are a good number of doctors that believe HBOT is effective for these reasons.  However, there are still a large number of doctors who don’t see hyperbaric oxygen therapy as being beneficial for brain injuries.

A rebuttal to those who say HBOT is not effective. 

  Studies done on hyperbarics and brain injuries that were deemed somewhat inconclusive.This has fueled the disagreements on the benefit of oxygen therapy for brain injured patients.  Some of the “conclusions” from the studies done on concussions, PTSD, and TBI being treated with HBOT have said that the results prove that hyperbaric oxygen does not conclusively benefit these conditions.  This has caused many doctors to automatically write-off hyperbarics as a treatment.  However, if doctors were to look deeper into these studies, they would find a whole slew of problems with the application of studies themselves.  Dr. Paul Harch, who is one of the world’s leading experts on HBOT in use with brain injuries, talks about the tragic faults of these studies here:  Basically, these studies were either headed by doctors with little to no HBOT experience, the treatment pressures were too high for brain injuries, the sham (or placebo) treatment was not actually a true sham treatment, or results were not properly represented.  This has led to a lot of miseducation about HBOT, that has kept many brain injured patients from even knowing that HBOT could be a viable option for them.  

Stories from patients themselves

As I’ve stated earlier, I have treated people with such a wide range of conditions at our clinic.  But truly, some of the stories that I love most have been of the effect HBOT has had on brain injuries.  Now, this is one issue that many naysayers of hyperbaric medicine have.  They say that many of the evidence is purely anecdotal.  However, having already discussed the issues with many of the studies, I think it’s important to share some of the firsthand accounts that I’ve had with brain injured patients.  The healing that has taken place has been clear and can be attributed to nothing but the oxygen sessions they are doing.  I’m not giving these stories as a foretelling of what you can expect from the therapy.  Rather they are to just show what can be possible.  

David - four concussions in five years...

The first story is of a gentleman that we’ll call David.  David was 82 years old when he first came in and had suffered from four concussions within a five year span.  It had been two years since his last concussion and he was plagued by continual headaches, brain-fog and fatigue that was keeping him from partaking in his once very active life.  The funny part of this story was that David actually had a long history with hyperbarics, but that focused more on its use in underwater medicine applications.  It was only recently that he realized that HBOT could be beneficial for his post-concussion symptoms.  After a number of phone calls with David, he finally came in to start his HBOT protocol.  After only five sessions, David’s constant headaches that he had had for two years completely went away and his thinking was much clearer.  David also noted that his energy levels were much improved and this caused him to want to continue with HBOT as a part of his general health routine.  Now more than 18 months after his first sessions David has happily been headache-free.  

Andrea 10 months post injury 

The second story is of a 15 year old girl that had a head injury from being hit by a car that caused her to be in a coma for two weeks.  The girl, who we'll call Andrea, came to me 10 months after her injury.  Luckily, Andrea had already made significant progress in her rehabilitation, but she was still suffering from headaches, lack of ability to concentrate, and anxiety due to her accident.  While she was able to slowly integrate back into school, she was not able to read or focus on her studies.  After a couple weeks of hyperbaric treatments Andrea’s mother called and said that Andrea wanted to tell me something.  As soon as Andrea took the phone I could sense the excitement in her voice.  She went on to explain that before her accident she loved to read.  However, after her accident she wasn’t even able to finish a single page because she just couldn’t focus.  Since starting her treatments though she had now finished one book and was part-way through her second book.  This was all within about 15 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  Both Andrea and her mother attribute this change to HBOT, because Andrea wasn’t pursuing any other new therapies and there was such a rapid change.  

Brad could only see in black and white after his injury...

For the last story, let me start by saying that I was supposed to have this article finished a couple weeks ago.  However, as I was writing this I had another client come in with post concussion syndrome.  I decided to hold off a couple weeks to see how my client does.  It just seemed like rather serendipitous timing to have a new client with a concussion right at the same time I’m starting this article!  So here’s what has happened.  This last client is a 43 year old named “Brad” that had his last concussion three years ago.  He was biking in the desert and hit his head in a crash against a rock that had him seeing in only black and white.  Since the accident Brad has been on the prescription drug Tramadol to take the edge off the CONSTANT headaches that he says are usually between a 7-9 in severity on a scale of 10.  After living with these headaches for three years Brad finally heard of hyperbarics and decided to give it a try.  At the point of writing this article, Brad has not taken Tramadol once in four days.  Brad says that he used to try going one day without taking Tramadol to see how it would feel.  When he did this he would need to take a nap on the floor of his office just to deal with the pain of his headaches.  Now HBOT he has not had to take Tramadol at all!   Brad still has more sessions to go with hyperbarics, but even this early into his treatment he’s already another positive story on the effects of hyperbaric oxygen with head injuries.


With my experience, no one can tell me that hyperbaric oxygen therapy isn’t beneficial to those with head injuries.  I see the results too frequently and consistently to not be confident in this healing modality.  However, with that said, it’s up to each individual to chose the therapies they want to incorporate into their healing journey.  My hope is that this article at least gives added perspective into the possibilities of hyperbaric oxygen in use with head injuries.  Talk to people whose lives have been touched by HBOT, do your research, and I wish you the best in your healing!


This article is purely informational. I am not a doctor, though I am a patient. This is not advise. 

Medical Marijuana - How I Overcame Post Concussion Syndrome, Graduated From High School, and Traveled the World


First off, I want to say what a long journey it has been for me to feel comfortable sharing this information with anyone. For a long time I thought I would be risking my credibility if I talked about how a compound in marijuana transformed my life, allowed me to graduate high school, and travel close to 100,000 miles around the world. Today, I find this fear within me rather silly. If there is anything I've learned after all I've been through, it is this: don't give up on yourself, this life is far too short to do anything else. The start of my story began when I was turning 17 and sustained 5 concussions within 5 months. I developed post concussion syndrome, a condition that brought my life to a grinding halt. On a daily basis I was facing severe chronic nerve pain, anxiety, stress, depression, and in a large sense immobility. I was prescribed 20+ medications, missed 80 days of school my senior year, and was told I might never get better. To put it simply: my life was miserable.  From being chronically ill, to watching my mother who guided me through my injury become terminally ill with cancer, I've  certainly faced some major challenges over the past few years. Since my recovery, I have been re-visiting my medical files, experiences, and doctors notes in order to write my story. Today, I am ready to share that story with the world. 

Below is a detailed summary of my experiences and research becoming the "first" pediatric medical marijuana patient in Maine. I say "first" because the state of Maine told me and my family the reason for my prolonged approval process (53 days) was due to the fact I was there first pediatric request. I can't say for sure that I was the first because I don't have access to anyone else's paperwork, and though I would love to believe the state, they could have just used this as an excuse for their delayed response. However, I can say confidently that if I was not the first, I was certainly among the first pediatric MMJ patients in Maine. The challenges, stigmas, and doctors that I had to face and overcome during this process are thoroughly explained in this article. This is my story, skim it through, or read the whole thing, just do me one favor: let me know what you think in the comments section below! 

The Harbor where I was hit by the boom.

The Harbor where I was hit by the boom.

My Injury?

Growing up on the coast of Maine, I was surrounded by the culture of sailing. From the age of 11 to the present it has consumed my life. My junior year, when I was a co-captain of my towns varsity sailing team, I was hit in the head by the boom of a 420 sailboat. This happened during practice on pretty windy day(15 kts to be exact). Now imagine a baseball bat hitting you in the head with 15 kts of power... that's what it was like.  From this, I sustained a terrible concussion along with a compression fracture on my c6 vertebrae in my neck (of which I didn't know about for 6 months). In addition to this hit, my head sustained 4 more over the next few months just going about life. Of these four more hits, the worst was when I was driving in a motor boat with my brother, dropped a water bottle, bent down to get it as we were going over a wave, and smashed my head on the dashboard of my boat. Because I had the first concussion, hitting my head within its recovery period just amplified the initial injury dramatically. This gave me some pretty awful symptoms. 

420 sailboats

420 sailboats

Developing chronic Nerve Pain... 

After a multitude of events in which I hit my head, I developed allodynia; a condition that causes the hypersensitivity of my scalp. The condition would eventually bring me unimaginable pain with just a simple touch. Simple daily routines, such as riding in a car was an awful experience; just driving over a small bump would send severe pain shooting through my body leading into my brain. For this, my father had to buy $1000 shocks for his truck, but even that would not completely fix the problem. Eventually, I had to stop seeing one doctor because the ride to get there was so bumpy and painful, I actually couldn't handle the drive. I was facing massive headaches and nerve pain on a minute by minute basis 6 months into the injury.  I consulted with some of the world's leading specialists on my condition and recovery. They prescribed me 20+ medications during this time to deal with my pain, I had multiple ER visits, and spent 5 days in the Boston's children's hospital. I tried everything I was recommended and prescribed. At one point I was told by a Harvard doctor that I may never recover, his strategy was "throw medication at the wall hoping something will stick." Unfortunately, nothing was sticking, and it was looking like western medicine did not have the answer I was searching for. My symptoms and pain where so bad at the time I had missed over 2 months of school. It was my senior year and I had no idea what I was going to do...

20+ prescriptions of mine...

20+ prescriptions of mine...


After being prescribed 3 valium a day, multiple antidepressants, and painkillers, I said enough. After all, I was only 17. These prescriptions were giving me massive side effects, clouding my thoughts, and stopping what was left of my depleted personality. Senior year for most people is a time of celebration and excitement for what the future holds. For me, I didn't know if I had enough strength within me to stay in school. Just spending an hour there was so overwhelming, I was constantly in fear of being hurt. Remember to me, a pat on the back was like a blow to the skull; my fear of being hit again was taking over my life. What did I have to look forward to... The thought of never getting better was consuming me. I had to get a 504 plan, which is quite an ordeal, just to stay on track for graduation. This is something that people with disabilities get to make special accommodations. It waved my absences, lessened my homework load, and allowed me to leave the classroom anytime I wanted. However, even with this plan in place, making it through a day of school was almost impossible. My outlook on life became very negative after seeing no progress in my condition while watching everyone else my age enjoy their senior year. I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mom about the way I was looking at the world. She, in her infinite wisdom, sat me down and told me "you'll never get better, if you don't believe you can." One particular quote she told me really stuck with me: "whether you think you can, or that you can't, you're usually right"- Henry Ford. It was time to shift my thought process. I really took this to heart, researching anything and everything that could help me get better. I eventually started to meditate in order to change my mindset. I also sought out alternative therapies like chiropractors, acupuncturists, hypnotherapists, neuromuscular therapists, and cranial osteopathy doctors. I found relief with all of these medical professionals, but my pain was still very present in my life. 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Finding CBD

Although I had felt that I had tried every single remedy, I knew there had to be something out there. I came accross multiple studies on a compound in marijuana called CBD (Cannabidiol) which was shown to have neuroprotective and  anti-inflammatory properties in people with head injuries. I looked even further, and came across some podcast clips from Joe Rogan on living life with the right perspective to find happiness within yourself. I did as many of us do when finding something we like on the internet, I clicked and clicked to hear more about what Joe was saying. As I was listening to him speak, he mentioned the amazing medical benefits of marijuana, and how much it had helped  him gain his perspective on life. He inspired me to obsessively research this plant. I kept seeing reports about how effective CBD was at treating chronic pain, nerve pain, and so many other conditions directly related to post concussion syndrome. I kept looking deeper into this, finding testimonials, research, along with some hope that this could be the answer. Take a look at some of these studies I found, they're quite amazing. There was one problem: my mom worked for the DEA.

"A considerable number of preclinical studies have demonstrated that cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-psychoactive constituent of marijuana, may provide neuroprotection against acute or chronic brain damage" Mechoulam and Shohami 2007Garcia et al. 2011Sagredo et al. 2011;  Fernandez-ruiz et al. 2013Harvey et al. 2012;  Pazos et al. 2012, 2013; Valdeolivas et al. 2012.
Photo Credit: Jon Toivo

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo

This was great but, MY mom used to work for the DEA... What was I going to do?

So I had stockpiled all this research, but how was I going to present it? A compound in weed, might help me get better. My whole life, as everybody else, I was taught that illegal drugs were bad, and specifically that marijuana was bad for my brain. Bringing this up to my parents was a challenge. I remember  debating whether I should tell my parents while we were driving  down to Boston to see a neurologist. I kept telling myself I would bring it up at the next highway exit sign, but before I knew it, we were in Boston. While finding parking, I blurted it out to them, trying to remember all the facts and studies I had memorized the weeks before. It certainly wasn't the easiest sell since my mom had worked for the DEA for years, and the federal government her whole life. Despite her federal outlook on marijuana, she fully understood how much pain I was in. She had taken me to every single one of my doctors appointments, which at this point, was topping more than 3 a week. She and I became so close during my injury that she would literally feel pain when I was experiencing it. She even documented every single day of my injury from what I was eating, to how I was emotionally. I was already being prescribed heavy narcotics, so what was the worst that could happen if I tried this plant.  My parents agreed to let me try it if I could get a prescription.

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Getting the impossible prescription

At this time there were only a couple doctors in Maine that were certified to prescribe medical marijuana. My parents and I sought one doctor out, got an appointment, and anxiously waited for it. We were greeted in a small room by his nurse practitioner, she said we needed at least 6 months of chronic pain documentation to be considered. I had 9 months of very detailed documentation. As I was telling her my story we all came to tears. It had been such a long and taxing journey for me, I couldn't be around any of my friends, all I did was rest and try new medication, I wasn't living life, not nearly as a 17 year old senior in high school should be. The doctor walked in,  and saw the moment he entered just how much pain I was in.  He looked over my file, and as we were talking he paused, telling me this could very well be the answer I was looking for. I couldn't describe the amount of hope that shot into me at that moment even if I tried.

Photo Credit: Ivy Getty

Photo Credit: Ivy Getty

Becoming the First Pediatric Medical Marijuana Patient in Maine.

The state told me I was the first pediatric request. I don't have access to anyone else's medical records, so I am taking it in confidence that the reason for the delay was because I was actually the first request. Being that I was under 18 at the time, a state psychiatrist had to look over my file and approve it. Protocol says for any pediatric patient seeking medical marijuana will hear back from the state within 10 days, however, I was the "first" request, and it took them a whopping 53 days to hear back. My family and I were furious, the state was taking so long to approve a medicine that was far less harmful than anything I had been prescribed before. My Dad called the state on a daily basis to check my approval. They told him there was nothing that he could do to speed up the process. When we finally did hear back, my request was denied. Luckily, there is a provision in the patient's law that a doctor can overrule the state's decision if he/she feels fit. My doctor without a single hesitation overruled the state, allowing me to access this medicine. In early 2012, 53 days after my initial request, I became the first pediatric medical marijuana patient for chronic pain in Maine. 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Driving to Remedy Compassion Center

On the hour drive to the first dispensary in the state, I was finally filled with hope. So many drugs and treatments had failed me, but this was different. I got to the dispensary and was greeted by the most amazing people. They told me my life would change because of this plant and they were right. They spent 3 hours with me explaining everything about their practice and what medicine would work best for me and my symptoms. I felt more personal attention than in any other doctor's office. We landed on a strain called harlequin, A high CBD low THC bud that was great for neuropathic pain. THC is the psychoactive element found in Marijuana, so little of this would barely, if at all, change the way I would act. After that moment, my life forever changed. 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Starting to Live

I got home put some "harlequin" in my newly acquired vaporizer, took two puffs and my pain was gone. I could not believe it, I could touch the top of my head without feeling like nails were going through my brain. Within two weeks my nerve pain had subsided about 80%!!!! This was shocking to most of my doctors, some straight up denied marijuana's effectiveness at all. However the truth was, the only medicine I was taking during that time was medical marijuana, so unless some supernatural force cured me, medical marijuana had to be the healing agent. I was finally getting my life back. I was able to go to school and stay the entire day. I was laughing and enjoying life with friends and family for the first time in 11 months. I was living the life I thought I was never going to be able to live. When I was prescribed medical marijuana my whole mindset changed. 

Les Saintes, one of my favorite islands I traveled to in the Caribbean.

Les Saintes, one of my favorite islands I traveled to in the Caribbean.


I was having truly human moments again, leading me to think I could actually get out of this terrible pain and reclaim my life. I finally felt like a normal kid again, granted I was 17, vaporizing weed in front of my parents before they dropped me off at school, but none the less normal.  My personality was coming back, my headaches were under control, my nerve pain was disappearing, and 11 months of chronic pain induced depression was lifted. This sounds like an overnight success story, and in a sense it was. I still had much more to do because of my underlying neck injury. But Lets deconstruct why CBD had such a great effect on every symptom I was having with post concussion syndrome. Scroll down to see!

Drag to see before and after! 

How Does Medical Marijuana act on the body?

I am not a scientist, so forgive me if I don't perfectly explain this. Your body possesses its own form of marijuana, called endocannabinoids, derived from lipids and essential fatty acids, they stimulate the endocannabinoid receptor system. This system is responsible for regulating pain, mood, appetite, and memory. Cannabinoids which are the active ingredients in marijuana(THC, CBD, and many more) stimulate the endocannabinoid system. The system is made up of two receptors, The CB-1, which is very present the the central nervous system, and the CB-2, which present in organs and the immune system. Cannabinoid receptors in the body have been reported to be greater in number than any other receptor population. This means when you have cannabinoids in your system, they are present virtually everywhere in your body. CBD's powerful medical benefits are linked to another receptor, the 5-HT1A receptor. This agonist effect on the 5-HT1A receptor is believed to be responsible for CBD's anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, pain killing, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, CBD and other "Cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances." (Dustin Sulak, DO) This is probably why medical marijuana is effective for so many different conditions. 

There is a lot of great information on CBD in this article bellow!

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 


When a Brain Injury takes place many chemicals are released.  They include glutamate, tumor necrosis factor alpha(cytokines), reactive oxygen species(ROS), endothelin, thromboxane, and some other chemicals. The release of these chemicals cause "neuronal and glial cell death," and inflammation in the brain. This sounds bad, and feels even worse. This causes a reduction of blood supply and oxygen to brain tissue(ischemia), often leading to more damage than the initial injury itself. This is where most of the complications from brain injuries take place. To date the treatments for brain injuries are ineffective and disappointing. However, there is a body of research that suggests that endocannabinoids and canabinoids, "inhibit the release of glutamate, ROS, and cytokines," the chemicals causing most of the issues surrounding brain injuries. "Cannabidiol, which does not bind to the cannabinoid receptors, also reduces glutamate toxicity" This tells us that CBD and other cannabinoids can actually be neuroprotective(protect nerve and brain cells) before, during, and after a head injury. 


"ROS and TNF-α, are major contributors to pathophysiology of brain injury. Van der Stelt et al. recently reported that ∆9-THC protects rat brain against ouabain-induced excitotoxicity [52]... It therefore might protect from the ischemic episode that occurs after TBI, and thus exert a cerebroprotection effect after brain injury [53]. Together, these data strongly suggest that the endocannabinoid system is intimately involved in neuroprotection."

More on neuroprotection 

Thinking about how far I've come

Thinking about how far I've come


Hypersensitivity, NERVE PAIN, AND CBD

During my senior year I remember touring the University of Vermont with a crippling headache because the wind, yes the wind was putting too much pressure on my brain... This kind of thing happened on a daily basis before I started using high CBD strains for my nerve pain. The hypersensitivity of my body was extremely painful and made ordinary tasks almost impossible for me. I was in pain from walking in the wind, but the small force of impact while walking also became very painful for me. This pain pushed me to stay inside and not move. Now after using high CBD strains, I'm able to go sailing in very heavy winds without a single problem, I just have to remember to duck... haha. In addition, not only can I walk normally, but I now can run for miles at a time with no pain. 

"cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance in rodents."
"These cannabinoids may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of chronic pain"

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Anxiety, Stress, cognition, and CBD

Anxiety and stress played a key role in my neuropathic pain. If I had even the minutest incident of contact with my head, it would feel like I had another concussion. My mind would quickly spiral out of control, thinking how many more weeks it would take me to recover. It was like a self fulfilling prophecy, of course I didn't get a concussion from an event like a paper towel hitting my head, but in my mind any hit could give me this pain. Trust me, even though it was in my head, this pain was very real. It was a form of post traumatic stress from my repeated head trauma. My body was still in fight or flight mode, meaning any hit was something it took seriously. When I was prescribed CBD, this anxiety and paranoia of being hit in the head went away. Now I am fully able to rationally think things through instead of instinctively acting on them. This gave me a great quality of life and the ability to resume normal activities!

 "Our findings suggest that cannabinoid receptor activation could represent a novel approach to the treatment of cognitive deficits that accompany a variety of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders."
"These results suggest that CBD Has anxiolytic properties, and that these effects are mediated by an action on limbic and paralimbic brain areas"
Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Depression and CBD

Having a chronic illness almost guarantees some level of depression. When you are told you may never get better from an injury that affects every part of your day it's hard to be happy. However, CBD improved all my symptoms, lifted my spirits, and allowed me to maintain a positive outlook on life. 

"It is now clear that CBD has therapeutic potential over a wide range of non-psychiatric and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression and psychosis."
Jumping back into life.

Jumping back into life.

Inflammation and CBD

Inflammation in my neck caused a lot of headache, pain, and stress throughout my entire body. Using CBD as both an oral treatment and topical treatment greatly reduced these symptoms. In addition, inflammation after a head injury can be more neurodegenerative than initial injury itself. Thus, if you can stop this inflammation in the brain, you may be able supress the damage that occurs to your brain after the fact. 

"This review discusses recent studies suggesting that cannabidiol may have utility in treating a number of human diseases and disorders now known to involve activation of the immune system and associated oxidative stress, as a contributor to their etiology and progression. These include rheumatoid arthritis, types 1 and 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer disease, hypertension, the metabolic syndrome, ischemia-reperfusion injury, depression, and neuropathic pain."
"The endocannabinoid system: an emerging key player in  inflammation."

Wakesurfing after my injury 

Wakesurfing after my injury 

Fatigue and CBD 

One of the most  common symptoms with post concussion syndrome is chronic fatigue. I was tired all the time, and possessed very little energy to do anything but lie on the couch. When I started using CBD I noticed I was much more awake, and had extremely better energy. 

"These findings suggest that this cannabinoid is a wake-inducing compound that presumably activates neurons in LH and DRN."
Blue lagoon, Iceland.

Blue lagoon, Iceland.

Sleep, CBD, and ME

During the height of my injury, sleeping through the night was almost an impossible task. I recall waking up every time I rolled over, because just that slight movement caused so much pain. One time I woke up screaming in pain because a pillow of mine had managed to fall on my head. Just saying this sounds so ridiculous, but this was the extent of hypersensitivity my body was facing. CBD absolutely improved my sleep quality, and allowed me to sleep through the night without experiencing the fierce pain I used to have when rolling over. 

Not only did my pain go away to allow me to sleep, but I was able to sleep less and feel far more awake during the day. I used to sleep 9-13 hours a day. Now I sleep 7-8 hours a day, waking with great energy! 

"The systemic acute administration of CBD appears to increase total sleep time, in addition to increasing sleep latency in the light period of the day of administration."
"2000 subjects with 1000 patient years of exposure demonstrate marked improvement in subjective sleep parameters in patients with a wide variety of pain"
Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Information overload and CBD

Walking into a grocery store used to be a very daunting task for me and can still be at times. With all the packaging and colors of the items, my brain would overload. I couldn't look for a specific product, if I went by myself, I would have to ask a store clerk to assist me. If I wasn't out of the store in 5 minutes, I would have to leave... it was just too much for me. Your brain has a way of processing information, it keeps the info. that it needs to know, and discards the info. that has no relevance. When you walk down the street, do you need to process the specific details of every single person that passes you by, or is that mostly irrelevant? When you have a head injury, your brain lets the floodgates open, and too much information flows in. This is very uncomfortable. Just when walking into a store so many things are happening that you don't realize: your eyes are being stimulated by all the products and their colors, your ears are hearing all the conversations, announcements, and chatter in the store, your nose is identifying all the smells present, your mouth is watering because you're seeing all this food,  and your touch is pushing a cart, felling products, and holding them. Amazingly enough, using medical marijuana closed my flood gates, and allowed me to find what I need in stores. When I used high CBD strains I began to be able to process much higher amounts of information without information overload. 

Flying back from CA 

Flying back from CA 

Plane Travel and CBD 

During my injury, I flew out to California to check out one of the schools I was applying to. I knew the flight would be uncomfortable, lots of people confined in a space grabbing for luggage. I was scared to death about being hit in the head.. on top of this, turbulence in the flight would be terribly painful. I got on the plane and my anxiety skyrocketed, I sat down safely, and we took off. The small bumps on take off were already sending shivers up my spine. When we got to cruising altitude I had a pounding headache in the base of my skull, which to this day I would attribute to the lack cabin pressure, recycled air, and my anxiety. I got off the plane with an awful headache, strong jet lag, and a depression that traveling anywhere was going to be a horrible journey. Since implementing CBD into my daily routine, I have taken countless flights with no headache... This is incredible!  When I was sick, I dreamed about traveling to amazing places around the world. This was something I didn't know if I was ever going to be able to do, but it helped me to escape my painful reality and lift my spirits. Because CBD helped so many of my symptoms, It allowed me to regain the ability to conduct normal activities, such as plane, car, and boat travel! I was free and able to explore the world, and that's exactly what I did! I was taken away from everything that I loved for 11 months, I was confined and restricted from many things. Now It's time to adventure!  The short video below, gives you a little insight as to what I've been up to. I hope you enjoy!


I have been hit in the head multiple times after being prescribed medical marijuana. The first time, I was coaching sailing and a student of mine dropped a sailboat mast on my head... a huge hit by anyones standards. I went home expecting to be out of work for at least a couple weeks, but I used my CBD, and within two days I felt normal again. This has happened a few times since, and every single time, I've recovered within a 2-3 day period. In addition to using CBD, I now use a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for 5, 1 hour sessions after I have a head injury. Using these tools and some others that I will talk about soon, I stay living without fear and continue to push the boundaries of happiness. 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

Photo Credit: Jon Toivo 

High CBD Low THC

CBD specifically was responsible for a large part of my recovery. During those 53 days of waiting on being approved, I was prescribed marinol(synthetic THC). I did get relief from my headache and nerve pain, but only when I was on the drug. However, when I gained access to CBD the pain freeing effects lasted much longer than just the drugs duration. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning you won't get high from it. You can do your daily activities and not feel spacey. It can also be found legally without the presence of THC in hemp, giving you an alternative to medical marijuana if you can't access it. CBD has been shown to be energizing, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-psychotic, and pain relieving. Most marijuana you buy on the street has only trace levels of CBD and high levels of THC. I have tried many high THC strains and found that the benefit for my head injury was not significant. That being said small amounts of THC can be very effective when combined with CBD and other cannabinoids in marijuana. Before you go out and buy some pot to fix your headaches, just know that CBD rarely is present in recreational marijuana. By no means am I recommending that you go smoke pot any time you have a head injury, there are some concerns with THC and short term memory issues, and it may exacerbate psychiatric illness in people with a predisposition for it. That being said, THC, CBD,  and many other cannabinoids  have been shown to be very beneficial for certain conditions. in my personal experience high CBD marijuana has been the most effective tool I continuously use to combat the pain from any head injury and post concussion syndrome. 

Resuming my love of skimboarding

Resuming my love of skimboarding

A long road ahead

My pain was successfully managed, but I still had more to fix. I had about 9 full months of complete idleness, and because of this, my neck injury went from bad to worse. All the muscles in my neck had pretty much stopped working. I became so protective of my head during those months that I didn't move my neck at all.  Going to the chiropractor helped dramatically, but what I really needed was a physical therapist to get all those muscles working and strong again. To this day I still see a physical therapist, and I will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. You see, I had combated my pain and symptoms with CBD, but in order to live life at its fullest, and be headache free for weeks without CBD, I needed to fix my neck injury. Neck injuries are very common in people with post concussion syndrome, in fact now it is becoming standard protocol to check the neck if concussion symptoms persist. If you have post concussion syndrome its very worth while to see if you have a neck injury. In addition to physical therapy, I use other techniques for pain management like meditation, breathing exercises, hypnotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This blog is becoming my expression of what worked and didn't work for my recovery.  

Sailing the Caribbean

Sailing the Caribbean


I am not a doctor, though I am a patient whose life was incredibly changed by CBD. If you or anyone you know has similar problems that I just described, do the research, and see if it might be right for you. I was convinced when I learned  CBD and other cannabinoids have corroborated to reduce the secondary effects of head injuries by inhibiting the output of neuron killing chemicals.   With CBD's armada of very beneficial effects, I believe it's going to become quite amazing treatment for concussion recovery. Dr. lester Grinspoon, a harvard psychiatrist, has written an open letter to the NFL recommending they allow players to use CBD to protect against head injuries. This neuroprotective aspect of marijuana has been known about for more than a couple years. In fact the US government has a patent for the neuroprotective properties for CBD. Look it up, its patent 6,630,507 -   This is great, right? Why hasn't this been implemented everywhere?  As I'm sure you all know marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, meaning that the federal government believes it has no known medical benefits. This is a strikingly huge problem in the United States legal system as many patients protest the scheduling of this medicine. Because of marijuana's illegality in the United States, research has been nearly impossible to do at home. Leaving this discovery out of most mainstream medical journals. Most of the research has been pioneered in Israel and other countries outside the US. I mentioned you can find, buy, and use CBD without the presence of THC found in hemp legally in the US. I have used many of the hemp derived CBD products with great effects and no legal issues. Check them out for yourself and see if you might want to try them.

My favorite sunset in St. Barths 

My favorite sunset in St. Barths 


I used high CBD low THC marijuana to overcome a string of problems surrounding my post concussion issues. Though, CBD was not the only thing that made me fully better, it was a major factor in overcoming this injury. Since my injury, I've resumed life fully, taking any opportunity I can for adventure.  I've traveled close to 100,000 miles all over the world, sailing more than 2000 of those after I was told I may never step foot on a boat again. I've attained many sailing certifications after my injury including my US sailing level 3 race coach certification. I also attained my open water, advanced open water, and rescue diver licenses. I passionately documented all my experiences abroad with photography to make sure I would never forget them. Now I have made it my mission to show people that it is possible to overcome a chronic injury and live an incredible life. Currently, I am going into my junior year maintaining a great GPA at one of California's top universities. Last semester I got straight A's, putting to sleep the stereotype of a stupid stoner, and bringing strength to the brain's neuroplastic abilities. I know medical marijuana will not be for everyone, however I'm certain it may be able to help some people. If this post helps just one person, I will be incredibly happy.  I want contribute in some way to reshaping the negative stigma of medical marijuana use, especially in kids who desperately need it.  It took me three years to overcome my fears of being judged to finally come out publicly with my story. After all I have been through, I know my mom would be very proud to see where I am at today. She herself was helped dramatically by medical marijuana because of her symptoms associated with terminal cancer. Together, we can move western medicine in the right direction, and try to allow easier access of medical marijuana to those who truly need it. It has helped many people deal with huge medical challenges, and maybe it could help you. I rest my case.

Thank you so much for reading this very long post, 6021 words to be exact.  

Your Homework: 

In the comments below, let me know If you would try or recommend CBD if you were in my situation?

P.S. I really hope you enjoyed this blogpost, if you could do me the biggest favor in the world and share this piece I will be forever grateful.


This article is purely informational. I am not a doctor, though I am a patient. This is not advise. 

Diving into Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy


I missed 80 days of school my senior year due to my post concussion syndrome. By the end of the year I was recovering from my nerve pain and many symptoms associated with PCS. I took a gap year to fine tune my recovery and set out on a life changing journey. Part of my gap year was spent doing a program called SeaMester, a hands on sailing, leadership, oceanography, and scuba diving program. I had an incredible experience traveling all over the Caribbean on an 88 ft schooner for 3 months. A huge part of the program was focused on scuba diving. I needed to get an "ok" by my doctors prior to going on this trip because of my severe condition the year before. I was in a much better place, and they agreed I could safely go on this adventure.  


I had no diving experience prior to this journey, but by the end of the program I attained my open water, advanced open water, and rescue diver licenses. Something stood out to me when I was diving, I had much more energy when I finished the dive than when I started. It was like clockwork, every time I dove, especially on the deeper dives, I would come up with more energy and clearer thinking. I certainly was noticing a pattern, and I wanted to figure out why. 


I had known that hyperbaric oxygen therapy had been used in concussion recovery, but the treatment was cutting edge, expensive, and not many doctors were using it in there tool kit at the time. I thought there must be a correlation here between diving and hyperbaric O2. My hypothesis was  breathing oxygen at pressure while diving may have a similar effect on me as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy brings pure or nearly pure oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure into your blood plasma, tissues, and body. Your body needs oxygen to survive, and giving your body pure oxygen under the right pressure and conditions may reduce inflammation, detoxify cells, improve circulation, and promote stem cell production. Many reported benefits include mental clarity, alertness, stress and anxiety relief, quicker injury recovery, improved sleep, and heightened energy levels. 


I had great effects from breathing normal oxygen under pressure with recreational diving, and I really wanted to see if pure oxygen administered under pressure in a medical facility would have an even greater effect. Once I returned from my gap year, I spoke with one of my doctors at the Boston Children's Hospital about my experience diving. She thought it was incredible, and said I should look into hyperbaric therapy. I looked into it more and more, finding a large number of positive studies and testimonials for head injury patients and post concussion victims. When I went to school in California, the first thing I did was look for a hyperbaric oxygen treatment center. I found one in Los Angeles called O2 Up, a great company run by an amazing man. I reached out to him, got an appointment, and started on this journey. He recommended that I do 40 sessions of 1 hour each, using a general protocol for head injuries.


 After that first session in the tank I was amazed! I could feel the oxygen going into my brain and bringing me much more energy. I got out of the session feeling even better than coming up from a dive. I knew I was onto something that could help fix my fatigue. So, I pursued it. I did the 40 sessions and then some. Each time, I felt more energized and was thinking clearer. I can honestly say hyperbaric oxygen therapy was an amazing treatment for me. It lifted the fog that surrounded my thoughts, giving me more energy to enjoy my life to its fullest. 


This article is purely informational. I am not a doctor, though I am a patient. This is not advise. 

Check out some Research

HOW I Didn't know I had a Broken Neck for 6 Months.

The First Of Many 

My junior year in high school I was hit in the head by the boom of a 420 sailboat while coming in from sailing practice. I suffered a massive concussion. The following weeks I did as any concussed patient would do in 2011, I removed myself from any stimuli, and got many hours of dark room rest. I had weekly visits with physicians to track my recovery and seek recommendations to improve my headaches. There was not much I could do they told me, just rest and I should recover soon. Five weeks past and I was still facing constant throbbing headaches. Summer was approaching and I wanted to start living my life like a normal kid again so I started resuming my daily activities. 

Repeated Head Trauma

Unfortunately over that summer I hit my head 4 more times.  The biggest of which I slammed my head on the dashboard of my boat as I  was going over a wave. This caused tremendous pain to my brain. After this blow I assumed it might be another 5 weeks to recover, but after 5 weeks my symptoms were getting progressively worse. I developed allodynia (hypersensitivity of the nerves), which quickly moved to my whole body, causing tremendous headache with just a simple touch. My headaches were always present, and my mood was awful. I started seeing neurologists, pain management doctors, Sports medicine doctors, and many other specialists to see if they could help. I was told that because of my repeated head trauma I had developed allodynia, and they were looking for medications that could alleviate my symptoms. It had been months from my last head injury and I was in more pain than the initial blow, these doctors were prescribing me all kinds of medication to combat the nerve pain and headaches. I was put on a total of 20+ medications ranging from Valium to Prednisone to anti seizure drugs. One Harvard doctor told me that the only thing he can do is through medications at the wall hoping something sticks. The same doctor was very unsure why I was in so much pain without the mental dysfunctions of a concussion. He told me that I have post concussion syndrome, and it's very possible I might never get better from it. Quite an awful thing to hear as 17 year old senior in high school. I couldn't go out, I could barely go to school, the bumps on the road were so painful from my allodynia that most days I would arrive in so much pain that I could only stay for an hour.  I remember days when I arrived at school just to turn back around because a friend of mine patted me on the back to say hello (this caused shocking pain to rush to my head). It's hard to believe looking back at it, just how restricted my life once was.  I missed 80 days of school my senior year in high school and had to get a 504 plan just so I could graduate. 

Finding My neck Injury 

About 6 months into the whole ordeal, my doctor told me we should X-ray my neck because it could have some relation to my headaches. Well, it turned out that I had suffered a compression fracture on my C6 vertebrae. My neck went up and to the right because of this injury, pressing hard on my occiput and C2 vertebrae. The occiput and C2 vertebrae are strongly associated with headaches and nerve pain if they are misaligned. I would think that doctors specialized in treating concussions would X-ray your neck, especially if you have prolonged symptoms. It took them 6 months to figure this out. By this time my pain levels had progressed so much that it was unbearable. I was prescribed Oxycodone and other strong narcotics to relieve myself from the pain. Thankfully, I was able to find other ways to relieve my pain, avoiding the dark trap that too many pills can bring. 


If you are having prolonged symptoms from a concussion, or if you are having headaches all the time, check to see if your neck  is injured. This is becoming common practice for doctors to check, but not every doctor does it. There was a strong connection found recently with neck injuries and post concussion syndrome. The neck can be responsible for all sorts of pain and discomfort in your head, so PLEASE consult with your doctor about your neck if you are still in pain.


This article is purely informational. I am not a doctor, though I am a patient. This is not advise. 

Saunas, Ice Baths, and Post Concussion Syndrome.

I come from a strongly Finish and Italian family. I have 3 middle names Toivo Olavi Maki, all of which are Finish. I traveled to Finland when I was 13 to spend time with family and experience my homeland. What I found very interesting about Finnish culture is how integrated Saunas are in society. 99% of Finns sauna at least once a week. There are 3 million saunas for a country with only 5.3 million people. Finns believe that saunas are a key part of staying healthy and removing toxins from the body. Using a sauna for 15 minutes can increase your white blood cell count; which can boost your immune system, alleviate chronic pain, and increase joint mobility. A traditional Finnish sauna routine consists of getting in the sauna for 15-20 minutes then jumping into a ice cold body of water for 2 minutes. Ultimately, this fluctuation of hot and cold temperatures has a great neurological effect on the body. Ice cold temperature on injuries have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect allowing for faster recovery times and pain reduction. Getting back to my roots was especially helpful after sustaining a massive concussion and neck injury when I was 17.

1 Sauna for every 1.76 people in Finland

Shroom TECH Sport by Onnit

Months after the initial injury I was still facing severe nerve pain on an hourly basis. I had hit my head more than 5 times and suffered a compression fracture to my neck. I developed something called allodynia (hypersensitivity of the nerves). This is a terrible condition to have especially when it's associated with a head injury. Imagine a simple pat on the back feeling like nails exploding in your brain. It's something that is very hard to explain to people because unless you are going through it, it seems as if you are exaggerating.

After many failed prescriptions and medications, one of my doctors recommended treating my pain with hot and cold therapy. I used this fluctuation between hot and cold just like the Finns do, but to treat my allodynia and nerve pain from my post concussion syndrome. The effects were incredible, giving me relief from my headaches and toned down my allodynia. I used this treatment of about twice a day for six months with great success. Not only was I reducing my pain levels, but I was becoming much more energized. In addition to this hot and cold therapy, I take daily cold showers.  I find many of the same benefits come from this, and it's much easier to integrate into your daily routine. Cold showers have shown to Increase your bodies circulation, immune system, mood, and alertness.

If you don't have access to a sauna dont worry. You can get similar results from a hot shower and an ice bath. For me I would put my head and or body into a tub of water and ice. Sometimes I will just use a sink, submerging my head for headache relief.  Generally I will hold myself under for 30 seconds - 2 minutes (you may get a brain freeze, but trust me its worth it) and jump into a hot shower. I would repeat this process until my pain resided.