A concussion is a type of brain injury that may occur after a blow or jolt to the head. Any event that causes the brain to bounce or twist inside the skull can cause a concussion, including being hit by an object, falling, or hitting your head against something stationary. When a concussion occurs, the brain’s movement can cause chemical changes in the brain. Brain cells may also become stretched or otherwise damaged.
Doctors often classify a concussion as a mild brain injury because they are generally not life-threatening. However, people may experience uncomfortable, disruptive symptoms that interfere with their ability to think and function.
If you sustain a concussion, you are likely to have a complete recovery. During your recovery, it’s critical to avoid some activities to give your brain a chance to heal. This article will detail activities you should avoid during concussion recovery and other ways you can heal after a head injury.
The Hartman Center offers a range of treatment programs to help you heal after a concussion and other brain injuries. Contact our team today to learn more about improving cognition and functioning.
Symptoms of a Concussion
Concussion symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the head injury. In some cases, concussion symptoms can be mild and may not appear until well after the event that caused the injury.
The most common symptoms of a concussion are:
- Amnesia (memory loss)
People may be unable to remember the event that caused their brain injury. They may have physical symptoms of a concussion, including:
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurry vision
- “Seeing stars” or dizziness
- Foggy thinking
People who have sustained a concussion may look dazed, seem confused, or lose consciousness for a few moments after the injury. They may be forgetful or repeat questions.
Some symptoms of a concussion may take more time to develop. In the days after a concussion, people may experience symptoms that include:
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in their sense of smell and taste
- Irritability or other changes in personality
Children may have slightly different symptoms. Some of the symptoms of a concussion in children include:
- Low energy or listlessness
- Dazed appearance
- Unsteady walking or poor balance
- Loss of interest in toys or activities
- Changes in appetite and sleep
- Excessive crying
If your child experiences a head injury and has symptoms of a concussion, see a doctor within 48 hours, even if they do not require emergency care at the time of the incident.
Symptoms of a concussion may last for days, weeks, or even longer. It is essential to follow your medical specialist’s advice during your recovery and avoid activities that could impair your healing.
Activities to Avoid During Concussion Recovery
When recovering from a concussion, rest and minimal stimulation are essential. Here are several activities to avoid during recovery from a concussion.
Do not drive during concussion recovery, especially if you are taking any prescription medications during this period. Driving can be too taxing on the brain because it requires higher levels of processing and thought, and your reaction time may be slower than usual.
Playing sports and exercising
A brain injury is just that–an injury. Even though you can’t see the damage your brain has sustained, it is very real and needs time to heal. Working out or playing sports can also increase your risk of a blow to the head or jolting that could cause further injury. Avoid strenuous exercise and do not play sports during concussion recovery.
People with a concussion may experience fatigue or “brain fog,” which makes them want to reach for coffee and energy drinks more often. However, consuming too much caffeine during concussion recovery can prevent your brain from healing. Caffeine constricts blood vessels, which reduces vital blood flow to the brain. Talk to your doctor about how much caffeine, if any, is safe during concussion recovery.
Ultra-processed foods like fast food, chips, baked goods, and sugary snacks can cause inflammation throughout the body and prevent your body and brain from healing after a concussion. Avoid them as much as possible during concussion recovery. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet full of nutrient-rich whole foods, such as fatty fish, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains.
Stress is a part of everyday living. From getting stuck in traffic to managing a heavy workload, most people experience unavoidable periods of stress throughout their day. During concussion recovery, it’s important to limit stress whenever you can. Avoid loud music and other noises, stay away from crowded locations, and don’t have visitors. Keep your environment as quiet and calm as possible so your brain can relax and heal.
Looking at and interacting with screens can strain your eyes and brain. Limit your time on any type of screen, including smartphones, TVs, tablets, and computers. Avoid social media sites as they encourage mindless scrolling that can be overstimulating or stressful.
You may have difficulty processing information and emotions in the days or weeks after a concussion. The work of holding long conversations may be too stressful for your brain. Keep your interactions with others as brief as possible, and avoid having discussions on the phone altogether.
Talk to your doctor about any OTC medications you want to take, including Tylenol and Ibuprofen. In some cases, everyday medications can interfere with your body’s ability to heal, so stop taking all OTC medications until your doctor gives them the OK.
Things You Can Do to Support Concussion Recovery
In most cases, a concussion will heal in 7-10 days. Here are some practical things you can do to allow your brain to heal and limit concussion symptoms.
Your brain needs rest more than ever after sustaining a concussion. Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night and take naps during the day if you get tired. Keep your sleeping room cool, dark, and as quiet as possible for the deepest, most restorative rest.
Your brain is almost 75% water, and staying hydrated can help it heal better. Drinking enough water can flush away built-up toxins and help you feel as mentally clear as possible as you recover from a concussion.
Give yourself a break from all electronic devices, including computers, TVs, and smartphones. For some, this may mean taking a break from work or changing how you work. This break from technology is crucial. Unplug and relax as much as possible while healing from a concussion.
Ask for help
It may be difficult to process information, and your thinking may feel fuzzier than usual. Ask a friend or loved one to help you keep track of doctor’s instructions, appointments, and other important information until your cognition and memory return to normal.
Work toward independence
While it’s crucial to rest and recover, you may also need to work toward regaining your independence. If you struggle with a task, do not give up right away. Continuing to work on a problem–even if it’s frustrating–can help improve your ability to solve problems. Ask your caregivers to be patient with you while you take time to answer questions or work out an issue.
Finding a good balance of rest and activity is essential while recovering from a concussion. Listen to your body, nurture your whole-body health, and ask for the help you need as you let your brain heal.
Avoiding Second Impact Syndrome (SIS)
Getting adequate sleep, eating well, and avoiding excessive stimulation are all excellent ways to help your brain heal after a concussion. These activities can allow your body the time and rest it needs to heal itself, allowing you to move on as quickly as possible.
One of the most important aspects of healing after a concussion is avoiding a second concussion. Sustaining a second concussion shortly after the first can have dangerous–even life-threatening–consequences. A second concussion can happen if someone falls and hits their head, is hit with an object, is involved in a car accident, or any other situation that causes trauma to the head.
Second impact syndrome (SIS) can occur when another concussion occurs before the first one has fully healed. When this happens, the brain may lose its ability to self-regulate blood volume and pressure. It can swell rapidly, causing it to strain against the inside of the skull, which may result in a dangerous loss of blood flow. People with SIS may face severe, permanent disabilities or death.
The risk of SIS is another reason to take concussion recovery seriously. Limiting activities that require balance and coordination, resting, and asking for help when you need it are all great ways to help yourself heal and limit the risk of sustaining a second concussion during your recovery period.
Find Concussion Treatment Now
The Hartman Center offers safe, effective concussion treatment programs to help you regain cognitive function quickly after a head injury. Contact our specialists to learn about starting one of our supportive programs today.