Recovering From Your Concussion
Getting better from your concussion...
will require you to allow some time for your brain to heal. If you broke your leg, there is no doubt you would be forced to limit your activities, because you would have a cast. However, you cannot SEE the injury of a concussion, but you know that an injury has occurred as because you feel different from before the injury, and the brain controls all your mental abilities. And just as with a broken leg, healing takes time, and patience. Moreover, if you are a competitive athlete, having patience is difficult because you probably want to resume play as soon as possible.
And you will heal. The majority of patients who have sustained a concussion will feel better in a matter of weeks. Others take longer. However, it is very difficult to predict precisely how long it will take your brain to heal, and when you will be able to resume your usual activity, but by understanding and choosing to follow this rehabilitation plan, that healing will take place as quickly as possible and in the safest, most comfortable manner for you.
What to do, and why:
1) For the first 24-48 hours you should rest, both physically and cognitively (mentally) (If 24-48 hours has already passed since your injury, this point may be modified).
There’s a pretty good chance you are already feeling fatigued, so rest is a good thing. Also, doing any activity that causes or worsens discomfort may prolong the length of time of your recovery.
2) Get good sleep. That is, try as best as possible to stick to your usual sleep pattern, or maybe going to bed a little earlier than usual if you typically use the computer or do texting before you go to sleep. Often, people who have had a concussion have a hard time falling and/or staying asleep. Try to avoid or minimize intake of caffeine.
Not getting good sleep worsens many symptoms, including fatigue (of course!), headache, attention, memory, and balance, as well as making you emotionally more irritable. The need to maintain a sleep pattern as close to your usual pattern is a very important part of concussion recovery. If you are really tired during the day and feel like you must sleep, you can take brief naps (maybe 15-30 minutes) to refresh. If sleepiness becomes a significant problem, contact your medical provider.
3) Limit your use of computers and other technology such as texting, Facebook and other social media and video games. If you need to use your computer for school, use it just for that; if doing so worsens your symptoms, your doctor and school should be informed). Talking on the phone is OK, again, as long as it doesn’t interfere with getting good sleep.
Use of technology is a cognitive stress and the rapidly-changing visual images and the audio stimulation of video games can worsen your symptoms, especially if you are already feeling “slowed down”.
4) Driving a car may be more difficult and dangerous after a concussion, so your doctor may advise you to limit or even stop driving for a period of time.
Post-concussion symptoms are associated with cognitive difficulties and slowed reaction times, and as a driver you know how important it is to have “quick reflexes”. Even a reaction time that is slowed by a fraction of a second can be the difference between stopping on time and a collision. Also, sleepiness and fatigue (see #2 above) and impaired concentration are risk factors for driving accidents.
5) Maintain a regular balanced diet and adequate hydration (drink what you usually drink but limit the caffeine).
Blood flow to the brain may be reduced following a concussion, and dehydration can worsen that and delay recovery.
6) Avoid overusing analgesics (pain medications). Use them only when you really need them- not round-the-clock.
Regular analgesic use can cause rebound headaches as their effect wears off. This is more likely to happen if you have a history of migraines. Ibuprofen or naproxen are the medications least likely to cause analgesic-rebound headaches.
7) Do not drink alcohol or use drugs.
Concussion can damage brain cells and cause them to function abnormally. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment , memory, and attention, cause mental “fogginess”, and slow reaction time - the same symptoms seen with concussion, and as a result, delay recovery. Why would you want to increase the damage to your brain cells?
8) Again, have patience, and stick with the plan. We are here to help.