A severe TBI can result in serious side effects and will require intensive rehabilitative therapy.
To help with your severe TBI recovery journey, we’re going to show you some of the best treatment options available.
We’ll also discuss the effects of severe TBI and how long your recovery might take.
Let’s get started!
What Is Considered a Severe TBI?
A severe TBI is defined as a brain injury that results in a loss of consciousness longer than six hours, and a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3 to 8 points.
The impact that a severe TBI will have on a person depends on a few factors, including the severity of initial injury, the areas of the brain affected, and how early the person begins treatment.
In general, the earlier treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery.
Side Effects of Severe TBI
A severe TBI affects nearly every aspect of a person’s health and abilities. Some of the most common effects are:
- Cognitive deficits, particularly difficulties with attention, memory and problem solving.
- Speech and language problems. These include problems with not understanding spoken or written words (receptive aphasia) or difficulty speaking and writing (expressive aphasia).
- Sensory problems. These include strange sensations like tingling or burning of the skin, a bitter taste in the mouth, smelling odd odors, and a ringing or roaring in the ears.
- Visual and perceptual problems, including blurred vision, loss of depth-perception, light-sensitivity, and blindness.
- Paralysis and/or spasticity. Other physical problems include fatigue and change in appetite.
- Social and emotional problems. These can range from depression and severe mood swings to serious personality changes.
These effects are all very serious conditions, but many of them can be effectively treated with the right rehab approach.
Best Approaches to Severe TBI Recovery
The main goal in severe TBI recovery is restoring your abilities.
You can do that by taking the right approaches during your therapy sessions.
Here are some of the best methods to reverse the effects of severe TBI and promote recovery.
1. Passive Range-of-Motion Exercises
Sometimes a severe TBI can cause significant weakness or paralysis on one or both sides of your body. It can also cause spasticity in your muscles, making them difficult to move.
Interestingly, the root cause behind all of these conditions is the same. Whether you experience weakness, paralysis, or spasticity, the problem is caused by bad communication between your brain and your muscles.
This means to regain movement, you’re going to need to work on rewiring your brain so that communication between your brain and muscles will improve.
Luckily, your brain already possesses a natural ability to do just that!
This ability is known as neuroplasticity, and it is the method your brain uses rewire itself and create new neural pathways. You can help activate neuroplasticity through intensive, high repetition physical therapy exercises for brain injury recovery.
As you practice these exercises, new neural pathways are reinforced. The more these pathways are reinforced, the more communication between your brain and muscles will improve, and eventually you will start to regain the muscle strength and movement you lost after your injury!
But how do you do these exercises if your muscles are so weak or spastic that they are effectively paralyzed?
This is where passive range-of motion exercises come in.
With passive exercise, somebody else moves your body through each exercise. The cool thing is, even though you aren’t technically doing things yourself, neuroplasticity is still being activated.
Eventually, with enough passive exercise, you will be able to start exercising independently again.
2. Sensory Reeducation
Sensory problems after a severe TBI are fairly common. These problems can include, numbness, tingling or burning sensations, and trouble feeling hot or cold.
The reason you might experience these problems is because your brain has essentially “forgot” how to interpret your senses.
Therefore, treating sensory problems will once again involve repetitive exercises that activating neuroplasticity to retrain your brain. This time, you will use sensory reeducation exercises that will help your brain relearn how to interpret different sensation.
The more consistently and repetitively you practice these exercises, the sooner you will improve your senses.
Noticing a pattern yet? Almost all the effects of traumatic brain injury are treated by activating neuroplasticity through exercise!
3. Speech Therapy
The best way to treat aphasia after TBI is to practice intensive speech therapy exercises under the guidance of a speech therapist.
If your aphasia is so severe you cannot even utter a single word, there is still another option available called singing therapy.
Singing therapy involves singing simple words or phrases to the tune of familiar melodies. With enough repetition, patients eventually turn their singing speech into normal speech.
This treatment may be more helpful for severe TBI survivors.
How Long Will Severe TBI Recovery Last?
Now that we have covered some of the best severe TBI recovery methods, you are probably wondering how long this whole process will last.
The short answer is: how long your TBI recovery timeline lasts will partly depend on how severe your injury is.
In general, the more severe your TBI is, the longer it will take to recover.
With that said, here are a few more facts to keep in mind about severe TBI recovery time:
- Most TBI patients who persevere with therapy will regain significant function after 2 years.
- The more rigorous your therapy program, the faster your recovery will be.
- Doctors often try to prepare their patients for the worst-case scenario. This means they often overestimate how long recovery take and underestimate how many abilities you will recovery.
Hopefully this helps you get an idea of how long your severe TBI recovery will last and what you need to do to speed up your recovery time.
Understanding Severe TBI Recovery
A severe TBI is a serious medical condition that can have a devastating effect on a person’s life.
But thankfully, with the right interventions and enough persistence, it is possible to treat these effects!
We hope this article has given you the tools you need to succeed with your severe TBI recovery, and we wish you luck on the journey ahead.