A concussion is the mildest form of traumatic brain injury. The injury usually occurs after a blow to the head or after whiplash causes fast shaking of the head and brain.
Concussions cause an alteration in mental state, and some individuals may lose consciousness. Though the majority of concussions aren’t life-threatening, they can cause serious symptoms and complications requiring medical treatment.
The symptoms can vary widely from case to case. One prevalent myth is a concussion always leads to a loss of consciousness.
5 Ways to Treat a Concussion
While some patients lose consciousness, not everyone does. If someone is recovering from a concussion, they should be monitored for serious symptoms and take basic steps for self-care.
1. Avoid Physical Exertion
When recovering from a concussion, individuals will need to avoid physical exertion for a while. If individuals work a job that involves manual labor, they’ll have to either take time off or get workplace accommodations that lessen the load.
They also shouldn’t participate in sports or heavy exercise. When patients do return to a regular exercise routine, sports, work, running, walking, and other forms of physical activity, it’s important to do so gradually.
They should first wait until they’re no longer experiencing concussion symptoms, and then they can start with light, low-impact exercises like stationary cycling or walking.
Patients may gradually increase the duration and intensity day by day as long as they don’t have symptoms. If patients start experiencing symptoms again, they must stop the exercise and go back to their previous level.
Some individuals don’t experience symptoms until minutes or hours after they’ve finished exercising. Patients should always consult a doctor about how they can most safely return to their normal physical activity. They should also always pay attention to their symptoms and what their body is saying.
2. Take More Frequent Breaks
The biggest part of recovering from a concussion is taking the time to rest. The patient’s body needs to use its energy to heal and repair itself. If patients push too hard, they’ll increase their recovery time, and could worsen their symptoms.
Individuals will need to take more frequent breaks than they would in normal day-to-day life. This includes both physical activities like walking and mental activities like reading or concentrating.
Patients should also take a break from whatever they were doing immediately following a concussion, especially if they sustained the injury in a sporting event.
Going back to sports without resting can make their brain injury significantly worse. As with increasing their exercise level, the most important thing for patients is to pay attention to their body.
If they notice they’re tired or that their symptoms are worsening, it’s time to take a break. Depending on the severity of symptoms, they might need to take time off work or see if they can schedule extra work breaks.
3. Limit Activities Requiring Mental Concentration
A concussion can cause changes in cognition including issues with concentration, memory, and thinking. Patients may feel like their thoughts are slower or their memory is worse. If the affected individual is in school, they might need to take some time off.
It helps to limit activities requiring mental concentration immediately after the concussion. Trying to force the brain to function can lead to both mental and emotional exhaustion.
If issues with concentration persist for a long time, patients should learn strategies to help focus and deal with concentration. The cognitive symptoms associated with a concussion will vary, so patients need to pay attention to their limits.
Some common issues include remembering and learning things, paying attention, finding the right words, following and understanding a conversation, multitasking, making decisions, organizing, and planning the day.
If patients are having trouble thinking, they can also go through a mental checklist. Maybe they need a break or more sleep, or perhaps they’re stressed, have a headache, or are otherwise experiencing pain. All of these things can interfere with concentration and cognition.
4. Take Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
A concussion is often accompanied by pain and headaches due to the injury. The brain itself doesn’t have nerve endings, but there are nerves in the head that can register pain. Most doctors recommend patients take over-the-counter pain medication as the injury is healing.
There are several pain medications available at local pharmacies. The best one to take for a concussion is acetaminophen. Patients should avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, and other blood-thinners, since these increase the risk of bleeding.
Patients with concussions are more vulnerable to brain bleeds, which can cause permanent neurological damage or even death. If an individual is not sure what medication is safe to take, they can talk to a doctor or pharmacist.
Acetaminophen treats mild and moderate pain caused by headaches, backaches, toothaches, osteoarthritis, and menstrual periods. It can also reduce fever.
The medication is available in many forms, and patients should always make sure to double-check the dosing instructions and warnings. When used in children, acetaminophen should always be in a form manufactured specifically for children.
5. Get Lots of Rest And Fluids
Healthcare professionals will all recommend the same basics when patients are recovering from a concussion: they should get lots of rest and fluids. Doctors recommend getting between eight and ten hours of sleep per night when recovering.
During the day, if patients are experiencing tiredness or fatigue, they should take breaks. They should also avoid overstimulating your brain with things like video games and computer screens.
Drinking fluids helps speed the recovery process. Hydration is important to both the patient’s overall health and their body’s ability to recover from injury. They must make sure they’re getting enough water and electrolytes to keep their body functional.
A well-balanced diet including fats, proteins, and carbohydrates is also key. Experts recommend eating a snack or small meal every four hours during recovery, as this helps maintain blood glucose and provide nourishment as the brain heals.