Traumatic Brain Injury: General Recovery Information

What to Do to Feel Better After a Concussion

Although most people recover fully after a concussion, how quickly they improve depends on many factors. These factors include how severe their concussion was, their age, how healthy they were before the concussion, and how they take care of themselves after the injury.

Some people who have had a concussion find that at first it is hard to do their daily activities, their job, to get along with everyone at home, or to relax.

Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal.

Ignoring your symptoms and trying to "tough it out" often makes symptoms worse. Be patient because healing takes time. Only when your symptoms have reduced significantly, in consultation with your health care professional, should you slowly and gradually return to your daily activities, such as work or school. If your symptoms come back or you get new symptoms as you become more active, this is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. Stop these activities and take more time to rest and recover. As the days go by, you can expect to gradually feel better.

Recovery - Is a Process

Medical care and evaluation after brain injury is a process, not an event. Many people, when hospitalized for a brain injury, need ongoing medical care, evaluation and rehabilitation therapies after discharge. A hospital works to stabilize a person's medical condition. Once stabilized, the person is usually then discharged. However, medical problems related to the brain injury often arise after hospital discharge, leaving the responsibility for accessing needed services up to the patient or his/her family.

A primary care physician (your family physician) will play a key role in making referrals and signing medical documentation in order for you to access brain injury services. It is important for the person with brain injury to stay in communication with his/her primary physician.

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center provides these Recovery Reminders:

  1. There is no "normal" time frame for recovery.
  2. Recovery depends on how serious the injury is and what areas of the brain are affected. Other injuries to the body also can affect recovery.
  3. Most patients will learn useful ways to work around the new challenges from their injury.

Effects of brain injury vary from person to person.

Many experience significant changes as they proceed through the recovery process. Brain injury can cause changes in general health, personality, behavior and emotions, prior interests and abilities in hobbies, recreational activities and sports, etc.

After the Hospital, many persons with brain injury need services for their recovery.

Your primary care physician should work with you and be involved in all aspects of the rehabilitation process. Should your primary care physician not be familiar with brain injury issues, he/she can access helpful information at Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Patients may access helpful information at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website as well.

Rehabilitation specialists work as a team. In addition to a physiatrist and the person with the brain injury, the rehabilitation team may include the person's loved ones, neuropsychologists, psychologists, occupational, speech, recreation and physical therapists (see the Types of Brain Injury Professionals section for descriptions of these professionals).

Preventing Long-Term Problems

If you already had a medical condition at the time of your concussion (such as chronic headaches), it may take longer for you to recover from the concussion. Anxiety and depression may also make it harder to adjust to the symptoms of a concussion. While you are healing, you should be very careful to avoid doing anything that could cause a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body. On rare occasions, receiving another concussion before the brain has healed can result in brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death, particularly among children and teens.

After you have recovered from your concussion, you should protect yourself from having another one. People who have had repeated concussions may have serious long-term problems, including chronic difficulty with concentration, memory, headache, and occasionally, physical skills, such as keeping one's balance.