Part 3 – What happens after that? Path to recovery
In the last video, we talked about medical diagnosis of a concussion. Let’s say you’ve had a concussion. What can you expect for your path to recovery?
First, know that recovering from a concussion takes time–often days, sometimes weeks or months.
The most important thing is to take care of yourself: to degree that you can, avoid physical and mental stress.
Many people become hypersensitive to light and sound, so a common recommendation is to avoid prolonged reading or use of smart phones and computers, and to stay in a dimly lit, quiet room. A little rest now can save a big headache later.
During the process of recovery, people often have trouble concentrating or remembering at their normal standard levels. People can have headaches, dizziness, blurry vision, trouble sleeping, and nausea, and they can be more irritable than normal.
If you’ve had a concussion and are recovering, it could be that your normal thinking and reasoning is impaired–and for this reason you might consider enlisting help from family or friends before making important decisions in your life.
Now, most of the common concussion symptoms will recede after a couple days. But in some patients, symptoms can take months to disappear. This is called post-concussive syndrome.
At its worst, PCS leads to absence from school, or loss of work, or disruption of relationships.
Now, PCS is usually short-lived. In most people, post-concussion syndrome symptoms occur within the first seven to 10 days and go away within three months. But up to 15% of people who get mild head injury continue to have post-concussive symptoms even after a year.
What is PCS about? Some research suggests that post-concussion symptoms are caused by structural damage to the brain, including disruption to neurotransmitter systems. Other researchers speculate that PCS has to do with psychological factors: they point out that the most common symptoms — headache, dizziness and sleep problems — are also seen in depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The fact is, both the physiological view and the psychological view are both possibilities, and they’re not exclusive.
There’s a good deal of research to determine why some people who’ve had concussions develop persistent post-concussion symptoms, and others don’t. That’s not known – it may turn out to have roots in genetic susceptibility – but what’s clear at this point is that it’s not correlated with the severity of the original injury.
In many cases, a large part of the stress of a concussion is not knowing how quickly you’re recovering, or how completely — it’s hard to monitor yourself without having some method of quantification. In this situation, neurocognitive testing can be very useful here. Using brief tests on a tablet, you can track how your recovery is going.
Ongoing research in our lab is aimed at using big data – about thousands of people recovering from concussion – to be able to predict the course of recovery for individuals.
In the meantime, if you’ve had a concussion, avoid stress and overexertion, and listen to your healthcare professional.
Concerned about your brain health? Take a BrainCheck test.