How to Safely Recover From a Concussion

May 7th 2016

Most people who suffer a concussion are able to recover completely, but the behavior of the patient during the recovery patient is crucial to this occurring. Any recurrence of symptoms during recovery is a sign the brain hasn't finished its healing process and is a reason to return to complete mental and physical rest to encourage further healing.

The Importance of Rest

The most important step a patient can take toward safe recovery from a concussion is prolonged and extreme rest. Returning to normal activities or trying to push past symptoms such as dizziness, headaches or blurred vision can actually make the traumatic brain injury worse. The first three to five days after a concussion should be a period of complete brain rest, with no mental or physical activities undertaken. After this period, mild mental exertion appears not to affect recovery time in most cases.

During the recovery period, avoid any strenuous physical activity, including sports, working out, heavy lifting and housework. Patients should also avoid strenuous mental activity — for students, this means setting the textbooks aside for a while. Avoid alcohol and any drugs other than those prescribed by the physician treating the concussion. Don't try to multitask since this puts undue pressure on the brain, but focus on completing one task at a time.

Returning to Normal Activities

Doctors recommend returning to normal activities slowly and setting them aside as soon as any brain-related symptoms reappear. If you're recovering from a concussion, try adding mild activity a little each day, but stop the minute you experience blurred vision, dizziness or pain and return to a former, milder level of activity for a while. Don't try to drive or ride a bike until your physician has cleared you to return to these activities. Return to work gradually if at all possible, starting with one or two hours at work and slowly coming back to a full schedule.

Concussions in Children

Parents frequently pressure children to return to school too quickly after a concussion, and children often want to fill the time of enforced brain rest with mentally demanding activities such as video games. Both choices can hinder recovery. It's particularly dangerous for young athletes to return to practice too soon since receiving a second concussion while still recovering from the first can result in permanent neurological damage.

Children are, in fact, more vulnerable to concussion than adults, with girls more vulnerable than boys. Injuries to the brain are greater in children, and recovery typically takes longer. While recovering, children should stay away from physical activity such as riding bikes or playing in a playground, and any theme park visits should be postponed until recovery is complete. Children should get ample sleep and should return to school gradually. Consult with the teachers and administrators to arrange a school schedule that lets the student get caught up slowly, and ask for additional time to complete tests and homework if necessary.

Conclusion

Taking the time to let the brain heal after a concussion is crucial to full recovery since too much exertion, either mental or physical, can have neurological consequences down the line. The key to recovery is rest. While a patient recovering from a concussion may be able to start performing some mental work after a few days, a return of symptoms is a sign that the brain isn't healing properly. A concussion patient should consult with a neurological professional all through the recovery period to make sure healing continues.

Sources

CDC.gov "Mild traumatic brain injury/concussion" http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/feel_better.html
WebMD.com "Power down to speed concussion recovery" http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20140106/power-down-to-speed-concussion-recovery-study
MayoClinic.org "Concussion: Determining when the brain has recovered" http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/clinical-updates/neurosciences/concussion-determining-when-brain-recovered

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