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Mild TBI Recovery: Understanding What “Mild” Means & How to Recover

man sitting on couch rubbing head to help with his mild TBI recovery

Mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are more serious than many people realize. If the proper steps are not taken, patients can experience symptoms for months, sometimes years, after their injury.

That’s why it is crucial to take the right approach to mild TBI recovery from the beginning. With a good treatment plan, you can give your brain the tools it needs to heal successfully from mild TBI.

You’re about to learn what qualifies as a “mild” TBI and what steps you can take for recovery. We’ll also include notes on how long recovery may take, though it varies person to person.

What Is Considered a Mild TBI?

A mild TBI refers to a bump or a blow to the head that disrupts brain function and results in a loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes. On the Glasgow Coma Scale, a mild TBI corresponds to a score of 13 or higher.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury are:

These signs and symptoms are a normal part of mild TBI injury and are not necessarily signs of permanent damage. They should subside as your brain heals.

However, there are some long-term effects of mild TBI to be aware of. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned you have lingering effects.

It’s also important to know that a mild TBI is not the same as whiplash, although they are easily confused.

Whiplash and Mild TBI Are Different

Many mild TBI symptoms can also occur after an injury to the neck, known as whiplash. Whiplash and mild TBI are separate conditions that require separate treatments.

However, whiplash and mild traumatic brain injury do have identical symptoms.  In fact, one study compared whiplash patients with mild traumatic brain injury patients and found no difference in cognitive deficits between the two groups.  Fortunately, whiplash is can be treated through physical therapy and manual treatments like massage therapy or mobilizations.

Whiplash symptoms can complicate recovery from a mild TBI, especially if you are not seeing improvements in pain or function. Talk to a healthcare professional if you suspect whiplash or other neck issues as a result of your mild TBI.  

Concussion vs Mild TBI

Although the terms concussion and mild TBI are used differently in different contexts, they actually refer to the same thing. Both concussion and mild TBI refer to a brief disruption in brain function that occurs in the first few minutes following a trauma.

This fact explains why concussions are more serious matters than most people realize. They are injuries to the brain that can cause potentially life-long consequences.

Therefore, if you were diagnosed with a concussion, it’s important to recognize that you have indeed experienced a mild brain injury and that you must take the correct treatment approach.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

doctor standing outside emergency room looking at camera confidently

Most minor head traumas will resolve on their own, but some can turn in to life-threatening conditions.

Seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms are present:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
  • Seizures
  • Any amount of amnesia or loss of memory of the event
  • For young children, any scalp swelling or unusual behavior, particularly uncontrollable crying.

Once you’ve been treated for any serious complications from your mild TBI, you can begin working on your recovery by using the techniques listed later on in this article.

Methods to Speed Up Mild TBI Recovery Time

Mild TBI recovery can take some time. However, there are some proven ways to reduce total recovery time. These include:

  • Sleep. Sleep is a restorative state that allows your brain to recover from stress and injury. This makes sleep one of the most important parts of mild TBI recovery.
  • Exercise. Studies show that low impact exercise, such as low intensity walking, contributes to a reduction of symptoms in mild TBI patients and shortens recovery time.
  • Hydrate. Dehydration impairs the brain’s ability to repair itself. Therefore, to promote a healthy recovery from mild TBI, try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces every day.
  • Avoid Alcohol. Avoid consuming alcohol for the first few days after your concussion. Alcohol contains neurotoxins that damage your brain cells and hamper your brain’s healing process.
  • Eat healthy. Make sure you consume foods that heal the brain after a concussion, such as foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. These will stimulate your brain’s production of new nerve cells and accelerate the healing process.

These five methods should help reduce your overall recovery time. As always, talk to your doctor if your symptoms decline or do not improve.

Mild TBI Recovery Time

hand drawn clock that says time to heal which represents mild tbi recovery time

The average recovery time for a mild TBI is less than 14 days for most adolescents without a history of motion sickness or migraine. For older patients, it can take a little longer, but even then, symptoms typically only last about three to four weeks.

If your concussive symptoms last for more than a month, you may have developed post-concussion syndrome. There is no need for alarm if that is the case. Even though it can take a long time, it is possible to treat post-concussion syndrome and make a full recovery.

You can also take steps to promote faster recovery from mild TBI by practicing cognitive rest. This simply means avoiding all mentally taxing activities, such as driving, studying, or using smartphones or computers, for a few days immediately after the injury.

Mild TBI makes it difficult for a person to perform these activities. That’s because, after a concussion, the brain devotes most of its energy towards healing itself. This leaves fewer cognitive resources to perform other actions.

Therefore, practicing cognitive rest is one of the best things you can do to promote recovery from mild TBI. After a few days, you can gradually increase activity again.

Besides pacing yourself, there are a few other ways to speed up your mild TBI recovery. We’ll look at some of the best options in the section below.

Recovering from Mild TBI

Symptoms of mild TBI can be more severe than many people realize. However, most patients will make a full recovery, as long as they don’t overexert themselves.   

If you allow yourself enough rest, stay hydrated, and gradually increase your activities, your symptoms should improve quickly.

We hope this guide helps you take the steps needed to fully recover from mild TBI.

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Get Inspired with This TBI Recovery Story

Independance, motivation and hope!

“My son Sharat suffered a severe traumatic brain injury 23 years ago leaving him with Aphasia and right sided weakness from his vision,hearing to his limbs. The lockdown in June was a great challenge for him as his caregivers stopped coming, no gym workouts and no outings for a coffee.

Being his mother and primary carer I feared that this was a hotbed for depression. I scoured the net and chanced upon FlintRehab. As there was a trial period it was safe for us to risk getting it across to Auckland.

His OT checked it out and felt that it was ideal. I can honestly second this.

He enjoys working on it and now after three months can do it on his own. His left hand helps his right hand. The FitMi video explains and shows him what to do, it gives him marks and applauds him too!!

He has to use both sides of his brain. The caregivers are OT students who returned enjoy working on it with him.

In three months there motivation built up in him with a drive to use his right hand. There is definitely a slight improvement in his right hand.

This encourages him as well as the caregivers to try harder.His overall mood is upbeat. He enjoys it, so much so, that it doesn’t matter if his caregiver is away.

FitMi is a blessing.”

Sharat’s review of FitMi home therapy, 10/10/2020

5 stars

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