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Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Understanding What “Mild” Means & How to Recover

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

Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be 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 traumatic brain injury recovery from the beginning. With a good treatment plan, you can give your brain the tools it needs to heal successfully from mild traumatic brain injury.

To help you identify and treat mild traumatic brain injury, this article will discuss:

What Is Considered a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

A mild traumatic brain injury refers to a bump or a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to rapidly move back and forth in the skull. This disrupts brain function and results in a loss of consciousness for that lasts for less than 30 minutes. 

A traumatic brain injury is classified as “mild” if the individual scores a 13 or higher on the Glasgow Coma Scale. Mild traumatic brain injury can be caused by various events, including falls, car accidents, violence, sports-related injuries, or explosive blasts.

Depending on the context, people may also refer to mild traumatic brain injury as a concussion. These terms are generally used interchangeably. However, recently some medical specialties have begun to try to distinguish them, with concussion referring to an even milder version of a mild traumatic brain injury.

As there has been no clear consensus yet as to what separates a concussion from a traumatic brain injury, we’ll be using these terms interchangeably throughout this article.

Signs and Symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

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

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

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

Many concussion symptoms can also occur after an injury to the neck, known as whiplash. Whiplash and mild traumatic brain injury frequently co-occur and may result in identical symptoms, but are separate conditions that require separate treatments.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

doctor standing outside emergency room looking at camera confidently

Most concussion symptoms 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
  • Slurred speech
  • 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 traumatic brain injury, you can begin working on your recovery by using the techniques in the following sections.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Techniques

Mild traumatic brain injury recovery can take some time. However, there are some proven ways to promote a faster recovery. These include:

  • Cognitive rest. After a concussion, the brain devotes most of its energy towards healing itself. This leaves fewer cognitive resources to perform other actions. Practicing cognitive rest simply means avoiding all mentally taxing activities, such as driving, studying, or using smartphones or computers. After a few days, you can gradually increase activity again.
  • 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 concussion recovery.
  • Exercise. Studies show that low impact exercise, such as low intensity walking, contributes to a reduction of symptoms in those with mild traumatic brain injury 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 help 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 methods should help reduce your overall recovery time. As always, talk to your doctor if your symptoms decline or do not improve.

Want 20 pages of brain injury recovery tips in PDF form? Click here to download our free ebook “15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know” (link opens a pop up for uninterrupted reading)

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Time

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

If your concussion symptoms last for more than a month, you may have developed post-concussion syndromeThere 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.

Recovering from Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury can be more severe than many people realize. However, most individuals 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 concussion.

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Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

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— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

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We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

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