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What to Expect After a Concussion

expectations after a concussion

Even though concussions are only considered mild traumatic brain injuries, they should not be taken lightly.

In today’s article, we’ll show you what to expect after a concussion and how you can ensure you make a good recovery.

Let’s get started!

What to Expect After a Concussion

A concussion is caused by a bump or blow to the head that causes the brain to move around inside the skull.

Symptoms will appear almost instantly and will normally last about two weeks. These symptoms include:

  • Headaches and light sensitivity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Concentration problems
  • Memory loss
  • Balance problems
  • Ringing in the ears

Many people believe that if they did not lose consciousness, they do not have a real concussion, but this is not the case. In fact, most people diagnosed with a concussion did not experience a loss of consciousness.

Concussion Recovery Phases

Concussion recovery has two phases: the acute phase and the recovery phase.

Acute Phase

The acute phase is the initial phase after a concussion, when symptoms are usually at their worst. This phase usually lasts around a week.

During this phase, rest should be your top priority. Your brain needs to focus exclusively on repairing itself, and if you are doing strenuous activities like working or studying, it has to divide its resources.

That’s why you need to make sure you take it easy during the first few days after a concussion. You should especially focus on getting enough sleep, since sleep is a restorative state where the brain really devotes its attention to healing itself.

You may have heard that sleeping after a concussion is dangerous, but this is actually a myth. As long as the person is not displaying any warning signs after concussion (see below) you should let them sleep.

Some other things you should do during the acute phase to promote concussion recovery are:

  • Avoid computer and TV screens
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity
  • Avoid alcohol

You should also feel free to take headache medications as needed to help manage pain.

Again, this phase usually lasts about a week to ten days.

If your concussion symptoms do not seem to be getting any better after several weeks, you may have developed post-concussion syndrome, and you should probably look into some different post-concussion syndrome treatments.

Recovery Phase

Once concussion symptoms begin to subside, you have entered the recovery phase.

During the recovery stage, you should gradually start increasing your activity.

Gentle, non-strenuous physical exercise like swimming or bicycling should be incorporated into your routine first before you start participating in any rough sports. The aerobic activity allows more oxygen-rich blood to flow into your brain without putting you at risk for repeat injury.

Your cognitive abilities might still be affected at this point, so you will probably require academic accommodations if you are in school.

You should start practicing cognitive rehabilitation exercises right away to help improve your memory, attention, and learning speed.

Concussion Warning Signs

For safety’s sake, it’s best to have a doctor check you out any time you injure your head. But if any of these symptoms arise, you should call 911 right away:

  • One or both pupils are dilated
  • Headache continues to worsen
  • Slurred speech
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Weakness or numbness in arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure

Warning signs in children can be a lot harder to detect, since they can’t communicate their feelings. If your child has hit their head, take them to the hospital if they display any of the signs above or these as well:

  • Stumbling or uncoordinated walking
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Delayed answering of questions
  • Staring blankly
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys

What Should You Expect After Concussion?

Concussions are not minor injuries. If they are not properly treated, they can lead to long-term and even life-long problems.

In the days immediately following a concussion, your symptoms will be at their most severe. This is no reason to panic, but it does mean your focus should be on letting your brain rest.

After a few weeks, your headaches should dissipate, and you should start participating in light physical and mental activity. Don’t go back to your old routine all at once, but gradually work your way up.

If you are concerned about any aspect of your concussion recovery, you should consult with your doctor, who might be able to prescribe you some medication to treat your symptoms.

Just remember that everyone’s injury is unique, and if it takes you longer to feel back to normal, that’s ok.

Depending on how severe your concussion was, it may take a while to fully recover. But if you keep up with your treatment, eventually you’ll be back to your old self again.

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