Just saying the word concussion might cause a person to have a headache these days. The negative-hype and attention this injury receives in our media is frightening but it doesn’t have to be. Advocating for yourself after your concussion can be a key in taking an active role in your recovery. The most common problem I see after this injury is the tendency to wait for things to get better. Unfortunately, 20-30% of those who sustain concussion will have prolonged symptoms and waiting for them to go away can eventually lead to more problems. I want to share some simple things you can do to ensure your path towards recovery is indeed moving in the right direction.
Concussions can be scary and there is no doubt of the dangers a serious concussion can bring. Today, more than 3.8 million people are affected by concussions. Of those, 75-90% are considered mild. As such, the odds of your concussion being mild are in your favor. So, my first recommendation after a concussion, would be to stay calm. I know, I know, no one wants to hear those words, “calm down,” but quite honestly, this is one of the most important and influential components to your success and recovery. Studies have shown us that early increases in anxiety after a concussion may prolong the symptoms of your concussion. So while staying calm when you just read 10 articles online that probably scare the shit out of you isn’t easy, it’s a great first step.
My second recommendation after your concussion, would be to go to your doctor with a list of questions to help guide your recovery and keep you on track. Knowledge is power after all and unless you arrive to that appointment seeking to gain more knowledge, you may find yourself in a spiral of confusion and frustration, ultimately leading towards more fear. Below are several questions you might consider asking at your appointment:
How severe is my concussion?
What does the evidence recommend with regard to recovery at this point?
If I read a book or watch TV, am I actually causing any brain damage if those activities increase my symptoms?
Is exercise safe for me right now?
Is taking a walk safe for me right now?
If I’m not feeling better in 2 weeks, what might you recommend?
Do you feel it might be appropriate for me to see my psychologist?
When would you recommend I see my physical therapist?
Showing up to your first appointment prepared to advocate for yourself will set you up for long-term success. While it may be important for you ask other questions, depending on your unique situation, you can be certain these questions will help to empower you and give you a sense of control in a situation where many feel powerless.
Finally, advances in research have been showing us that active recovery after concussion is not as dangerous as once thought. In fact, seeking the care of a physical therapist can help you manage many of the symptoms of concussion including headaches, neck pain, dizziness, and fatigue. Physical therapists can also help guide you towards a safe recovery that includes exercises that keep you healthy and healing. While many health care providers continue to recommend a period of rest for their patients, rest after concussion may not be the best solution and may in fact prolong your recovery. Asking questions, advocating for yourself and for an active recovery can be vital towards receiving better care after your concussion.
Dr. Ellie Somers, Physical Therapist