Treatment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (Concussion)
A mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a sudden jolt to your head that causes a temporary change in the way your brain works. It could be caused by a blow to your head, a blast, or a sudden and severe movement of your head that bounces your brain inside your skull. For people in the military who are deployed, blast injuries are a common cause of mTBIs. Falls, fights, sports, and motor vehicle accidents are other common causes that may or may not be related to deployment.
Treatment of mTBI
Having an mTBI can change the way you feel, act, move, and think. Even though you may appear fine, a mild TBI can have a big impact on many areas of your life. An mTBI can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, memory problems, mood swings, and inability to focus your thoughts.
Treatment for mTBI may be different, depending on symptoms and other unrelated medical issues; therefore, no 2 mTBIs are the same. Your primary healthcare provider is usually able to manage your treatment. However, should symptoms continue you may be referred to specialty TBI providers. For example, you might work with a physical therapist to help with your balance and movement problems. Or you might work with an occupational therapist to help you function better at home and at work. Other medical experts may help you with emotional and thinking problems.
In some cases, your doctor may use medicines to relieve symptoms while you recover. These may include pain relievers, antidepressants, antianxiety medicines, sleep aids, and muscle relaxants. Although medicines can help, they are not a main part of treatment. You should not take any medicines unless discussed and approved by the provider managing your treatment. Things that you can do for yourself are usually more effective at managing symptoms than the medicines you are prescribed. This part of your treatment is called self-management.
Self-management for mTBI
Most people with mTBI recover completely, but it may take weeks or months. For some people, symptoms may continue for years. Because of this, self-management may continue long after you leave the hospital. Making lifestyle changes that help your brain recover are good habits to form early on in your recovery. In order to manage your symptoms long term, you should continue to keep these good habits going even after you have recovered.
Here are some self-management tips:
Learn as much as you can about mTBI. Share what you learn with friends and family.
Let your TBI providers know about all your symptoms.
Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.
Get plenty of sleep.
Don’t overexert yourself mentally or physically, but be consistent with movement and exercise. Work with a physical therapist to help you find your personal exercise level.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
Don’t use caffeine or energy drinks as a way to make you feel less tired.
Avoid activities that could cause another jolt to your head. Ask your TBI providers what types of activities are safe.
Avoid too much mental stress. Learn some relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
Keep a pad and pencil handy to write things down if you are having trouble concentrating or remembering.
Let your TBI provider know if your symptoms are getting worse. Important mental symptoms to watch out for include memory loss, having a hard time thinking clearly, having trouble controlling your emotions, and depression. Physical symptoms to report are worsening headaches, loss of balance, changes in vision, seizures, and vomiting.
Recovery from an mTBI takes time. Be patient and give your brain time to heal. Be sure to rely on your support system, which includes friends and family members who understand and appreciate what you are going through. You might also want to join a support group and share your feelings with others who have had a TBI.