Traumatic brain injury treatment comes in a variety of forms.
The types and extent of treatment will depend on the severity of your injury and its location in your brain.
To help you find the plan that works best for you, we’ve created this ultimate guide to traumatic brain injury treatments.
We’ll cover treatment options for moderate and severe TBIs first, then move on to treating mild traumatic brain injuries.
But before we do that, let’s look at the first phase of any traumatic brain injury treatment, which starts right when you arrive at the hospital.
Emergency Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment
A traumatic brain injury occurs whenever a bump, blow, or other head trauma causes damage to the brain.
When a patient with a head injury arrives at the hospital, emergency treatment will mainly involve stabilizing the patient and ensuring enough oxygen is getting to the brain.
Most of the time a TBI is accompanied by other injuries, so doctors and nurses will work on treating those as well.
Sometimes surgery is needed as an emergency treatment if the damage to the brain is severe.
Some of the surgeries that might be performed include craniotomies to relieve pressure, and surgery to set skull fractures.
Once the patient is stabilized and all serious medical emergencies have been taken care of, then treatment for the after-effects of traumatic brain injury can finally begin.
1. Emergency Treatment
When should you seek emergency treatment?
If you suffer a head trauma, you should seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms are present:
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
- Any amount of amnesia or loss of memory of event
Even if you feel fine, your best course of action is to have a doctor check you out and perform an MRI or CT scan as soon as possible. That way they can detect any potential brain bleeds that may have developed and give you immediate care.
Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment
Most people with more serious traumatic brain injuries will need some type of rehabilitation therapy.
These therapies address the many different aspects of TBI, including the physical, emotional, and cognitive effects that typically follow a brain injury.
Treatment usually begins in the hospital as soon as the person is strong enough. After that, you will either be sent to an inpatient rehab facility, or you will be sent home.
Whether you are sent to a facility or back home, there are several different treatments that you will most likely need to participate in. We’ll discuss the most important ones below.
2. Occupational and Physical Therapy
Physical therapy works to rebuild physical strength, coordination, and flexibility after TBI.
Not only that, but it also increases blood flow to your brain, giving your brain the nutrients it needs to function.
On the other hand, occupational therapy is used to help a person relearn how to perform activities of daily living such as getting dressed, cooking, or bathing.
Both PT and OT utilize massed practice (high repetition exercises) to activate neuroplasticity, the mechanism your brain uses to rewire and repair itself.
All of this makes physical and occupational therapy extremely important treatment options for TBI.
3. Speech Therapy
If your traumatic brain injury has affected your ability to speak, you should begin speech therapy right away.
A speech therapist can walk you through the many TBI speech therapy activities available, and show you exactly what you need to do to retrain your brain and regain language skills.
Speech therapy can also help you with the more subtle aspects of communication that you might struggle with after a TBI, such as matching your voice pitch and volume with others and learning how to begin and end a conversation.
4. Cognitive Therapy
For many people with traumatic brain injury, the cognitive effects can be the most challenging issues to deal with.
Luckily, you can treat these issues through cognitive therapy. This therapy utilizes various cognitive rehabilitation exercises designed to improve memory, attention, learning and several other cognitive skills.
5. Psychological Counseling
This is sometimes overlooked in traumatic brain injury treatment, but it is very helpful for promoting a full recovery.
A psychologist or counselor can help you overcome the emotional effects of TBI, learn effective coping skills, and improve your relationship with others.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment
Not all TBI are serious enough to warrant intensive therapy.
If you experience a mild TBI, also known as a concussion, you most likely will not need any specific treatment. Your body can do most of the healing work on its own, and you should notice your symptoms subsiding within a month.
With that said, here are some things you can do to support your body’s natural healing process and shorten your concussion recovery time.
6. Get Enough Sleep
When you are awake, your brain must divide its resources between healing itself and helping you function throughout the day.
But when you sleep, your brain can devote its energy entirely towards repairing the damage it has suffered.
That’s why it is so important to get enough sleep after a concussion. Your brain is working extra hard to heal from your injury, and you need to let it do its job without distractions.
If you are worried that it might be dangerous to fall asleep after a concussion, you should not be.
As long as your eyes are not dilated and you have already been checked out by a doctor for any serious complications, there’s no reason not to let yourself snooze.
7. Practice Cognitive Rest
When you’re not sleeping, you should be practicing something called cognitive rest.
Cognitive rest is essentially just avoiding mentally taxing activities like multi-tasking, driving, or heavy reading.
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.
8. Stay Hydrated
When you are dehydrated, your brain cells can’t function as efficiently, which impairs your brain’s ability to repair itself.
That’s why, to treat a mild traumatic brain injury, you should be drinking at least 64oz of water per day, possibly more.
Once you have rested enough, you should gradually increase your activity level.
In the past, many doctors would recommend that concussion patients avoid all strenuous activity until their symptoms were gone. But that advice is becoming less common in light of new research.
In fact, low impact exercise, such as walking or swimming, has been shown to help reduce symptoms of nausea and dizziness in mild traumatic brain injury patients and shorten recovery time!
Just be careful not to overexert yourself. If exercise seems to worsen your headaches, take a break. Only start exercising when you feel strong enough to.
Alternative Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment
In addition to the treatments above, there are alternative therapies that can help boost your recovery from TBI.
Acupuncture has long been used in China to treat neurological disorders, but it’s only recently starting to gain wider acceptance in Western medicine.
As far as treating traumatic brain injury goes, acupuncture has been verified to promote the production of BDNF, a neurotrophic factor that aids in the production of new brain cells. Which means it might be very helpful in TBI recovery.
Many people report significant improvements from their TBI effects after acupuncture.
On the other hand, some people do not see any benefits, so there is no guarantee it will help everyone. But then again, that’s true for most treatments.
Still, if you are looking for more natural ways to recover from TBI, acupuncture might be a good fit for you! Just make sure to talk to your doctor first.
11. Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen therapy involves lying in an enclosed chamber breathing pure oxygen for 60-90 minutes.
The idea behind it is your brain requires extra oxygen to heal from an injury, and oxygen therapy supplies this.
The science behind it indicates that it does reduce inflammation in damaged brain tissue, and can be effective when used together with other therapies.
12. Healthy Brain Food
Last but not least, healthy food can be a great treatment for traumatic brain injury!
After all, your brain needs fuel to function, and the main source of fuel it gets comes from what you eat.
Make sure you consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, such as those found in a good brain injury diet. These will stimulate your brain’s production of new nerve cells and boost your recovery.
Some foods that are great for your brain are:
- fatty fish, such as salmon and trout
Turmeric is another food you can try. It reduces swelling and provides pain relief, which can be just what your brain needs to recover.
Best Treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury
And that’s it! As you can see, there are many different treatment options available to aid your recovery.
We hope this guide has helped you come a little closer to deciding which traumatic brain injury treatment is best for you.
Remember, whichever option you choose, repetitive exercise is the key to rewiring and healing your brain. So be sure you incorporate that into your daily routine!
We wish you the best of luck on your TBI recovery journey.