Experiencing fatigue after TBI is a very common but very frustrating problem for many brain injury survivors.
In this article, we show you some great ways to manage your fatigue and get your life back!
Sound good? Then let’s dive in.
Fatigue After TBI
After a TBI, your brain will be working extra hard to try to heal itself, which means it has less energy to devote to other activities.
This is why you may feel more tired than usual when performing your daily routine.
There are three different types of fatigue you may experience after a TBI:
- Physical fatigue. With this type of fatigue, you are exhausted after doing any type of physical work, even simple tasks. It usually is most severe in the evening, but gets better after you sleep.
- Mental fatigue. With this type of fatigue, it is hard to concentrate and perform simple mental tasks. You may find that reading a book or trying to listen to someone talk wears you out quickly. As with physical fatigue, mental fatigue is usually worse at the end of the day.
- Psychological fatigue. This type of fatigue has a lot of the same symptoms as physical and mental fatigue, but unlike those, it does not get better after rest. You are also usually tired in the morning.
Whether you experience one or all three types of fatigue listed above, there are effective ways of managing fatigue that you can start using today! We’ll look at these next.
Treatments for Fatigue After TBI
Here are a few tips for managing fatigue after TBI.
Exercise is a great way to reduce fatigue and promote neuroplasticity, which will help your brain rewire itself.
Exercising not only boosts endorphins, which make you feel more energized, it also increases oxygen levels in your blood AND increases blood flow to your brain!
All of this helps your brain heal and gives you more energy throughout the day.
The best type of exercise for curing exhaustion is any kind of aerobic activity – such as swimming, biking, or yoga – because these are the most effective at increasing oxygen in the blood.
2. Slow Workouts
You may be wondering how you can possibly exercise if you are exhausted after any type of physical activity.
That’s a great question! It can sometimes feel like you are stuck in a vicious cycle: you need to exercise to beat your fatigue, but you are too fatigued to exercise.
Our best advice is to start slow and don’t push too hard, because you do not want to risk over-extending yourself.
Start with a light and short workout. Then, gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your exercise routine over time.
Eventually, you should start gaining enough energy and endurance to exercise regularly. You will hopefully also start to feel much better mentally and physically.
But what if you find your fatigue is making it just too hard to exercise? Do not worry! There are still lots of other ways to beat fatigue after TBI.
3. Eat Energy-Boosting Foods!
Consuming a diet that is full of energy-boosting foods can help greatly reduce your fatigue and exhaustion. Some of the best foods for increasing energy levels include:
- Bananas are rich sources of potassium and vitamin B6, both of which help boost energy in the body.
- A single medium-sized apple contains around 19 grams of sugar, 25 grams of carbs, and four grams of fiber. The fiber and protein in the apple slows down the digestion of carbs, providing you with a longer supply of energy.
- Not only is yogurt packed with protein and simple sugars, but it is also rich in vitamins B2 and B12, which aid the formation of ATP, a molecule that your cells use for fuel!
- The oats in oatmeal are rich in certain vitamins and minerals that help with energy production, such as iron and manganese.
In addition to these foods, many of the foods that promote brain function, such as those found in a good brain injury diet, are also great at boosting energy. So be sure to add those to your diet as well!
Dehydration can also affect your energy. People with TBIs need to be drinking even more water than the recommended daily amount, because your brain needs water to help heal itself efficiently.
4. Reduce Stress
Stress is often a major factor in fatigue, and taking steps to reduce it can be very effective in treating your exhaustion.
Yoga and other meditative practices are great ways to lower your stress and increase energy.
5. Talk to a Sleep Specialist
If exercise and diet changes do not help relieve your exhaustion, and you find you are tired even upon waking up in the morning, you may want to consider talking to a sleep specialist.
Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia, are very common in TBI patients, and they could be contributing to your constant fatigue.
Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted during sleep. This leads to an excess amount of CO2 in the bloodstream, which can cause extreme fatigue.
An overnight sleep study can help identify any sleep disorders you may have, and a sleep specialist can recommend ways to treat it and get you back to having a refreshing night’s sleep.
More Treatments for Fatigue after TBI
So, let’s say you have tried all the advice above. You exercise, you eat healthy, you have consulted a sleep specialist, and still you are constantly tired. Is there anything else you can do to beat this fatigue?
Yes, there is! You will just have to start eliminating some of the root causes of your fatigue before you can treat it. Here are some of the most common causes of fatigue and how to treat them.
If your fatigue is present all day, no matter how much you rest, it is possible you are suffering from depression, a very common side effect of TBI. One of the major symptoms of depression is chronic fatigue, so it is worth talking to a psychologist to see if this is what is causing your tiredness.
Talking to a therapist can help relieve your depression, though you may need to be put on some antidepressants to treat your fatigue.
Besides depression, sometimes the root cause of your fatigue is actually a problem with your endocrine system. Brain damage to your hypothalamus can cause the endocrine system to stop working properly.
The endocrine system controls your body’s adrenaline and testosterone levels, thyroid function, and growth hormone production. All of these contribute to your energy levels, and if any of them are low or malfunctioning, it will cause you to feel extreme fatigue.
Luckily, there are medications to treat this condition and help your endocrine system get back to normal. Talk to your doctor or an endocrine specialist to see if this may be what is causing your fatigue.
Medications to Treat Fatigue after TBI
Finally, some medications used to treat spasticity after TBI are known to cause fatigue. If you are taking these meds, you may want to ask your doctor about lowering your dosage.
Also, for some patients with TBIs, doctors will prescribe certain stimulants that can help counter fatigue.
However, this should only be considered if your fatigue is extremely debilitating and after every other treatment option has failed.
If you do decide to try stimulants, make sure you do so under close medical supervision.
Managing Fatigue After TBI
Hopefully this article has shown you how to successfully manage and even cure fatigue after TBI.
By getting enough exercise, eating a good diet, and treating whatever underlying condition that may be causing your fatigue, you can finally conquer exhaustion and get back to living your life!