10 things you can do after concussion

10 Things you can do for yourself to heal after concussion

  1. Understand concussion: make sure you understand what’s happening in your brain and what the best advice and guidelines are.  See Concussion 101 and Concussion Neurobiology for Dummies.  Browse the reading materials on our resources page.
  2. Seek out good help: make sure you find a good doctor or healthcare team that is knowledgeable and can give you guidance.  Don’t do it alone.  Talk to your GP or give us a call or email, we’re here to help.
  3. Prioritize meaningful rest, especially in the first few days after concussion.  Rest includes reducing physical, cognitive and social activity and avoiding too much sensory input.  Consider taking time off school and work or reducing demands, and do not play sports.  Light activities like walking around the house are okay if they don’t make symptoms worse.  Absolute rest in a dark room for days without end  is not normally required.  Keep in mind that rest is still important as your progress through your recovery - strive for balance.
  4. Reduce Stress: stress slows down healing.  Reduce stress as much as you can in your life and learn stress reduction tools like breathing, mindfulness and other relaxation techniques that you practice daily.
  5. Use exercise as a tool: while doing too much can be dangerous, doing too little can also prolong recovery.  When you are cleared by your doctor or healthcare team begin with light aerobic activity that does not make symptoms worse.  
  6. Take it slow: Return to things gradually and slowly.  Don’t rush back into things.
  7. Maximize sleep: sleep is integral to a good recovery, so follow our quick tips for sleep  to make sure you get the best sleep possible and reduce insomnia.
  8. Eat well: good nutrition is going to help you recovery more quickly.  Dietary recommendations for concussion are straightforward:  
    • eat a balanced diet with regular meals through the day,  
    • maximize healthy fats (Omega-3, Omega-6 and saturated fats)
    • Eat healthy sources of carbohydrates and complete protein
    • drink plenty of water,
    • avoid alcohol, processed foods and refined sugar (or other pro-inflammatory foods).
    • Consider eliminating caffeine if it affects you negatively.  
    • Talk with your doctor to ensure  you don’t have any vitamin/micronutrient deficiencies and  consider supplements or food sources if you are deficient.
    • Consider speaking with  a nutritionist or dietitian for more support.  
    • Be careful about what herbal or natural remedies you use because many have been shown to have drug-interactions that can worsen symptoms.
  9. Use your energy wisely: fatigue is guaranteed after concussion, so you have to use your available energy wisely.  Keep the 4 Ps in mind:
    • P lanning - make a to do list, schedule all activities and rest into a calendar
    • Prioritizing - pick your most urgent and  important items and get them done first.  Forget about things that are non-urgent or unimportant.  
    • Pacing - alternate between activity and strategic rest so you don't  burn out early in the day.  Pace out your activities appropriately so you don’t crash and burn.
    • Positioning - change your environment to limit distractions and sensory input, check out your ergonomics to make sure you aren’t causing extra strain and pain.
  10. Have a plan: don’t dive back into school, work or sports without a plan.  Returning to activity should be gradual, strategic and supported by medical, school and sports professionals.  Your progression back to 100% should be in clearly defined steps and be based on how your symptoms respond.

REFERENCES

  1. Leddy, J. J., Baker, J. G., & Willer, B. (2016). Active Rehabilitation of Concussion and Post-concussion Syndrome. Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics of North America, 27(2), 437-454.
  2. Lewis, M. D. (2016). Concussions, traumatic brain injury, and the innovative use of omega-3s. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 35(5), 469-475.
  3. Lucke-Wold, B. P., Logsdon, A. F., Nguyen, L., Eltanahay, A., Turner, R. C., Bonasso, P., ... & Rosen, C. L. (2016). Supplements, nutrition, and alternative therapies for the treatment of traumatic brain injury. Nutritional neuroscience, 1-13.
  4. Spinella M, Eaton LA. Hypomania induced by herbal and pharmaceutical psychotropic medicines following mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Inj 2002;16:359Y367.