We all get hurt from time to time. Bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts are no big deal – they’re part of what it means to be human. However, ice and Band-Aids won’t fix everything. When the injury involves your brain, great care must be taken to ensure a safe and proper recovery.
What is a TBI?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that occurs to the head or brain area. TBIs come in a variety of types, including concussions, penetration injuries, contusions, and diffuse axonal injuries (tearing of the brain tissue).
Each year, an estimated 2.5 million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries. In total, 5.3 million people are dealing with active TBIs at any given time. They’re most common in adolescents between the ages of 15 to 24 and older adults over the age of 75.
Common causes of TBI include falls (40.5 percent), unintentional blunt trauma (15.5 percent), motor vehicle accidents (14.3 percent), and violence (10 percent). Symptoms and consequences include headaches, seizures, sleep problems, paralysis, short attention span, memory issues, poor judgment, loss of reading and writing skills, and difficulty learning new information.
The CDC refers to a TBI as a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain. Healthcare providers often diagnose TBI by using tests like the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS).
“GCS is a neurological scale used to assess the impairment of the conscious state of a person with a brain injury,” Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. explains. “Eye opening, best motor response and best verbal response are the three measures used to score responses. A total patient score of 3 indicates deep unconsciousness, while a score of 14 (on the original scale) or 15 (on the modified schedule) indicates a healthy individual.”
5 TBI Recovery Suggestions
While some serious TBI injuries lead to permanent damage, many can be recovered from over time. And though you should consult your doctor before doing anything, you might find the following tips helpful in your recovery:
1. Avoid Mentally Taxing Tasks
As most TBI sufferers will tell you, mental fatigue is much more challenging and taxing than physical fatigue. It’s for this reason that you should avoid mentally taxing tasks until your brain has reached a certain point of recovery. And if you do engage in mentally stimulating tasks, try spreading them out throughout the day.
One mentally taxing task per hour is enough – and it should last no longer than 10 minutes at a time. If you’re doing something that will take longer than 10 minutes, breaks will help you gather yourself.
2. Take Short Naps
Most TBI injury victims feel tired and groggy in the weeks and months after they sustain their injuries. Don’t feel guilty about the fact that you’re tired. Feel free to take naps. This is not a sign of being lazy – it’s smart! A few short, well-timed naps throughout the day will help you perform at your best.
3. Try Relaxation Techniques
A TBI causes significant changes in the brain. These changes affect how you think and process information. If you ever feel yourself getting stressed or anxious, you may find relaxation strategies to be beneficial in your recovery.
“Anxiety, which interferes with attention and concentration after TBI, will make symptoms related to any neurologic condition worse. I always recommend doing some brief relaxation techniques before starting a task,” neuropsychologist Lt. Ana Soper, PhD writes. “Mindfulness meditation has been repeatedly shown to decrease worry and there is now some good initial support that it improves attention and concentration, too. Many people report that managing stress has improved memory and concentration!”
4. Stay Positive
As difficult as it can be, be sure to stay positive. You are not crazy and you are not alone. This is just a minor setback in your life – one that you can use to propel you to new successes in the months and years to come.
5. Keep People in the Loop
It’s common for TBI sufferers to retreat into themselves or to remain quiet. However, this is one of the worst things you can do. Make sure you keep your friends, loved ones, and doctors in the loop. Notify them of any changing symptoms or conditions so they can provide you with the best possible care, love, and support.
Begin Your Road to Recovery
Ultimately, you and your doctor must develop a recovery plan that makes the most sense for you in your situation. Sit down and discuss some of these tips and strategies with your healthcare team to learn more about how to proceed from here. Good luck!