Early management of severe traumatic brain injury is critical for ensuring you make a good recovery.
This is why many brain injury patients are transferred to a TBI inpatient rehabilitation center once they are strong enough.
At a rehab center, you can get the right early interventions that will make your recovery progress much smoother.
In today’s article, we’re covering everything you need to know about early management of severe traumatic brain injury in TBI inpatient rehabilitation centers.
We’ll also give you tips on how to keep your recovery going even after you’ve been sent home.
Why Early Management of Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Matters
After a traumatic brain injury, your brain enters a heightened state of plasticity.
Plasticity refers to the brain’s natural ability to re-organize nerve cells. This process allows undamaged areas of the brain to take over functions controlled by damaged ones.
In the first few weeks following a brain injury, this natural plasticity gets a massive boost, which means you will make tons of improvements very quickly.
But this improvement doesn’t happen on its own!
Instead, neural plasticity must be activated, and the best way to do that is through intense, repetitious exercise.
As you can see, this is what makes early management of severe traumatic brain injury so crucial. If you can harness the brain’s naturally heightened plasticity right away, you have a real chance at making a good severe TBI recovery.
And that’s exactly what TBI inpatient rehabilitation centers try to accomplish.
Benefits of Inpatient Rehabilitation Centers for Severe TBI Recovery
TBI inpatient centers provide intense rehabilitative therapy for several hours a day, seven days a week.
The goal of all this is to activate neuroplasticity and help the person get to the point where they can participate in therapy on their own.
These rehab centers address every aspect of traumatic brain injury, including:
- Cognitive problems – this includes everything from problems with memory to understanding language.
- Physical problems – problems with strength, balance, coordination, movement and swallowing.
- Sensory problems – trouble with sense of smell, vision, taste and touch.
- Emotional problems – mood swings, impulsivity, irritability and other behavioral issues.
When you enter the rehabilitation center, the doctors there will assess you on each of these categories. Then, they’ll design a therapy program that addresses your individual needs.
What Are TBI Inpatient Rehabilitation Clinics Like?
Early management of severe traumatic brain injury at a TBI rehabilitation center will be done under the supervision of a physician.
The doctor is there to mostly monitor your progress and make sure everything is going well. But the bulk of your therapy will be carried out by your personal rehabilitation team.
This team, made up of highly trained specialists, works together to make sure you are reaching the right goals and getting the treatment you need to succeed.
The following are some of the treatment goals your team might set for you at an inpatient rehab clinic.
The physical therapist at the clinic will teach you how to be as physically independent as possible.
They will do this through therapeutic exercises tailored to restoring specific functions such as walking or arm strength.
For example, if you need to work on improving your balance, the PT will teach you the right balance exercises for brain injury patients.
Physical therapy sessions at inpatient rehab clinics are intense, because high repetition is the best way to activate neuroplasticity. So be prepared to get a good workout!
Relearn activities of daily living
The occupational therapist is there to teach you how to perform activities of daily living. These include eating, grooming, dressing and transferring from bed to wheelchair.
They also might help you relearn more complicated activities, such as cooking and money management.
Finally, they will have you perform several TBI occupational therapy activities to help you regain the underlying skills needed to live independently.
The speech therapist is responsible for helping you learn how to speak again after brain injury.
They treat all your communication problems, from swallowing difficulties to aphasia.
A speech therapist will mainly teach you TBI speech therapy activities to strengthen your speech muscles and improve your clarity.
They also deal with the mental side of speech, which means they can help improve your cognitive skills as well.
If you struggle with emotional problems after traumatic brain injury, the neuropsychologist on your team can help you find ways to overcome them.
In addition, they often work alongside your speech therapist to teach you cognitive rehabilitative exercises that improve your thinking and memory.
Stimulate your brain
It’s not all work at an inpatient clinic. Recreational therapy is an important part of your treatment plan as well.
Not only does recreational therapy stimulate the brain and promote recovery, it wards off depression and isolation, which helps severe traumatic brain injury patients heal both emotionally and physically.
The recreational therapist at an inpatient facility is there to provide fun opportunities that get you reconnected to others. Plus, it gives you a chance to relax in between your other therapies.
Fuel your recovery
Finally, a nutritionist at the clinic makes sure you are receiving the proper nutrients to fuel your recovery. This is especially important for patients who might be underweight after their stay in the hospital.
What to Do After TBI Inpatient Rehabilitation
If all goes well, your individualized treatment plan will work, and you will gradually meet all your goals.
After that, you will be discharged and sent home.
This is a big deal! It means you’ve successfully passed through the early stages of severe traumatic brain injury recovery.
But to keep your momentum, you need to be vigilant and persevere with your therapy activities.
You might feel like your recovery progress has slowed down or even stopped completely after you left the rehab center. This might be true, but that should not discourage you.
After the initial stage of recovery, many patients experience stretches of time where they don’t make many improvements.
These plateaus are normal, but it’s important to push through them.
One helpful trick for dealing with plateaus is to switch up your exercises a bit. So if you’ve been working on your legs mainly, try focusing on your arms for a while.
If you can continue with your therapy, eventually you will start to make progress again.
Early Management of Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
Hopefully this article has given you a good picture of what early management of severe traumatic brain injury looks like and a better understanding of why early interventions are so important.
Even if you can’t receive care at an inpatient facility, you should absolutely start therapy at an outpatient center right away.
The sooner you take advantage of your brain’s neuroplasticity, the more abilities you’ll be able to recover.