Many different factors can affect your concussion recovery time.
Some examples include your age, how healthy you were prior to the concussion, and what activities you do after your injury.
While the average concussion recovery time is usually a couple of weeks, it varies from person to person.
Even though most concussions will resolve themselves over time, there are actions you can take to reduce the length of time your symptoms last.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about concussion recovery time and what you can do to speed up your recovery.
Average Concussion Recovery Time
The average recovery time for a concussion is 7 to 10 days for high school students. For older patients, it can take a little longer, but even then, it typically only lasts about three weeks.
If your concussion symptoms last for more than a month, it is possible you have developed post-concussion syndrome. Post-concussion syndrome is a fairly common effect of traumatic brain injury.
There is no need for alarm if that is the case. Even though it can take a long time, it is possible to treat post-concussion syndrome and make a full recovery.
But while it is true most concussions will resolve themselves over time, you can reduce your chances of developing post-concussion syndrome and shorten your recovery time by taking certain measures immediately after your concussion.
We will look at some of these precautions next.
Ways to Speed Up Concussion Recovery Time
Here are some specific things you can do to shorten your concussion recovery time and get back to your normal self sooner:
Sleep is a restorative state where your brain repairs itself from stress and consolidates new memories. Therefore, it is crucial you get lots of sleep in the first few days after a concussion.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not dangerous to fall asleep after a concussion, as long as you are not displaying any of the warning signs of serious brain damage. (We will cover some of these warning signs near the end of this article.)
Every person’s injury is unique, and some people may need more sleep than others, but the generally recommended amount of time you should rest from all strenuous activity is three to five days. After you have given your brain some rest, you should gradually return to your regular routine.
2. Practice Cognitive Rest
In addition to physical rest through sleep, you will need to practice something called cognitive rest.
This doesn’t mean you can’t think about anything at all, it just means you need to avoid activities that are mentally exhausting, like multitasking.
Some ways you can practice cognitive rest are:
- Take notes. Write down, or have someone else write down, anything you need to remember. This lets you rest your short-term memory skills, which use up a lot of brain power.
- Take time off work, or lessen your work load. Some people after a concussion will go immediately back to work, thinking they are fine. But this can actually worsen your symptoms and cause more permanent damage. If possible, take some vacation time to let your brain heal, or talk to your boss about lightening your responsibilities. If you are a college student, let your professors know about your injury so they can accommodate you.
- Don’t drive. It is not safe to drive while you are recovering from a concussion. Not only does it put a lot of strain on your brain, a concussion impairs your reaction time and hand-eye coordination. So let someone else take the wheel for a while.
- Limit lights and sounds. After a concussion, your brain will be sensitive to bright light and loud noises. To give your brain a chance to heal, it is a good idea to stay away from those things for a little while.
You should practice cognitive rest for as long as your symptoms are present, but once again the recommended rest time is for at least three days following your injury. Again, every person is different and you should consult your doctor for more specific guidelines.
Your brain is composed of about 75% water. When it is fully hydrated, the brain cells are able to function efficiently.
This is crucial in concussion recovery, because it means that your brain cells can repair themselves more efficiently too.
It also means if you are dehydrated, your brain’s ability to repair itself will be impaired.
Therefore, one of the best things you can do to aid your concussion recovery is to drink lots of water!
64 ounces of water is the minimum amount you need to stay hydrated on an ordinary day, but after an injury you will need even more water.
When you sustain an injury to your brain, your brain tissues are deprived of their normal flow of oxygen and nutrients, which leads to cell death. Your body then sends fluid to the affected area to clear out the dead cells and allow new cells to grow.
But if you get dehydrated, your body can’t do that. That’s why it is so important you stay hydrated after a concussion!
4. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine for the first few days after your concussion.
Both of those substances have neurotoxins in them that damage your brain cells and hamper your brain’s natural ability to heal itself.
So drinking alcohol after your concussion can make your symptoms last longer.
Caffeine also dehydrates you, which as we learned above, makes your brain work less efficiently. So definitely try to stay away from coffee after a concussion.
5. Limit Screen Time
After a concussion, you should try to limit your exposure to computer screens as much as possible.
Not only do they strain your eyes, which can exacerbate your symptoms, but the blue light from computer screens can throw your brain’s sleep cycle off, making it harder for you to get the rest you need to recover.
You can try using special blue light filtering glasses to prevent this effect, but it is better for your brain if you just take a break from looking at screens for a few days.
Danger Signs After Concussion
Like we said, most concussions will heal after a few days.
But in some cases, a concussion can turn into a life-threatening hematoma or another serious condition that requires emergency treatment.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, seek medical attention right away:
- A steadily worsening headache
- Dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Uncontrollable vomiting
- Loss of consciousness. Even if it is only for a brief time, you should take it seriously.
For children with a concussion, you should take them to the hospital if they will not eat and cannot stop crying.
We just have one final tip: See a doctor!
Even if you believe your concussion is a minor one, it is still a good idea to see a doctor anyways and get checked out, just in case.
Your chances of making a full recovery are much higher if you can catch any complications from your injury early.