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7 TBI Recovery Tips to Make Your Rehabilitation a Success

Senior woman in wheelchair smiling and shaking hands with doctor as he gives her some TBI recovery tips

TBI recovery can be a long and frustrating process. But there are ways to speed up your recovery.

This article will show you some of the best TBI recovery tips that can help make the rehabilitation process more successful.

Let’s dive in.

Tips to Help Ensure a Good TBI Recovery

TBI recovery is often complicated and can feel overwhelming at times. The rehab process will also look a little different for everyone, depending on where the damage occurred and how severe it is.

But while each brain injury is unique, there are some steps that every brain injury survivor should follow.

Below are seven of the best TBI recovery tips that can help you get the most benefits from rehab.

1. Activate Neuroplasticity

By far the most important action you can take during TBI recovery is to activate your brain’s neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire itself. This allows healthy brain regions to take over functions controlled by damaged ones. It’s the reason most TBI survivors are able to regain abilities even after they thought they lost them forever.

You can activate neuroplasticity through massed practice exercises, i.e. lots of repetition.

The more you practice certain exercises, the more your brain establishes new neural pathways in response. That explains why an action gets easier when you practice it.

Unfortunately, if you don’t keep activating neuroplasticity, those neural pathways will degrade, and you can lose function.

2. Find Knowledgeable Practitioners

group of confident doctors in white coats and scrubs

This might seem like common sense, but it’s crucial to find doctors and therapists who are familiar with the effects of TBI. They can help you deal with any complications you might face and direct you to the best treatments available.

Some professionals you should try to have on your medical team include:

  • Physiatrist. The physiatrist is a physician who specializes in rehabilitative medicine. They look at the big picture of treatment and can direct the rest of your team on how to best care for you.
  • Physical therapist. Their role is to help you restore normal muscle function and to teach you to be safe in your environment.
  • Occupational therapist. The occupational therapist’s goal is to help you regain functional independence. They do this by teaching you how to relearn an activity or by finding creative ways for you to adapt.
  • Speech pathologist. Speech therapists focus on treating communication problems. This can involve helping improve your swallowing and speech abilities or cognitive skills such as memory and word recall.
  • Neuropsychologist. These are psychologists who specialize in the cognitive and emotional effects of brain injury. They can help you find effective coping methods to deal with your injury.

The more people you have working with you during the rehabilitation process, the more successful your recovery can be.

3. Practice Therapy At Home

It’s important to visit your physical and occupational therapists every week. However, going to therapy appointments once or twice a week will not get you the results you need.

Instead, make sure to practice the exercises you learn at therapy every day. You can have your therapist write you a home exercise sheet to help you remember exactly how to do them.

There are also home therapy devices, such as FitMi, that can walk you through exercises in a fun and engaging way. Many patients find that these devices help them stay motivated in a way that hand-out sheets do not.

Practicing your exercises every day will keep your brain stimulated. This promotes the production of BDNF, which will help your brain regenerate nerve cells. 

4. Learn Relaxation Techniques

woman sitting on chair on porch closing eyes

Stress and anxiety cause the brain to function less efficiently. In particular, stress can cause problems with memory and attention skills.

Since brain injury also affects memory and attention, this means stress can make these symptoms even worse. That’s why finding ways to decrease stress is crucial for TBI patients.

Mindfulness meditation is a great way to help you relax. Meditation has been scientifically shown to reduce stress and grow the areas of the brain responsible for memory and attention.

See more tips on mindfulness after brain injury »

5. Pace Yourself

Fatigue, especially mental fatigue, is a common side effect of brain injury. It is critical for TBI patients to know how to manage their energy so as to avoid accidentally suffering a setback.

Some tips for helping you avoid fatigue include:

  • Prioritize. If you have five things to do, pick the one that absolutely must get done. Then, let the others wait, or have someone else do them for you. Also, figure out what time of day your energy is at its peak and finish your most demanding task then.
  • Take frequent breaks. Breaking up a task into smaller sessions and scheduling short rests in between can drastically reduce strain on your brain.
  • Avoid triggers. If you know that a certain activity always wears you out, avoid it if possible. For example, if your friend wants you to meet them for lunch, ask that it be somewhere quiet that won’t exhaust you.

These tips should help you conserve enough energy to help you work on your TBI recovery.

6. Push Through Plateaus.

You might notice that, when you first start your TBI recovery, you can make incredible progress. It might even seem like every week you gain back a new ability.

This happens because your brain enters a heightened state of plasticity immediately after an injury. That means your exercises will be more effective than usual.

Unfortunately, this state doesn’t last. After a few months, things will slow down. You will most likely experience extended periods where you make no progress at all.

Do not give up! Plateaus are frustrating, but they are also temporary.

In fact, they are a normal part of the recovery process. With continuous therapy, you will start to make improvements again.

7. Use External Motivation

Caregivers, you may need to gently prod your loved one to do their daily home exercises, especially at the beginning of their recovery.

One of the many possible side effects of brain injury is impaired motivation, also known as adynamia. Although it can look like the person is acting lazy, they actually cannot help it.

But if they do not stay active, their symptoms can deteriorate.

Therefore, make sure to help them get started on their exercises if they struggle with motivation. If they refuse, try to negotiate a compromise.

For example, you could offer them one hour of TV in exchange for an hour of exercise. Offering patients something concrete they can enjoy in return for therapy is often more successful than arguments.

Bonus TBI Recovery Tip: Stay Positive

smiling woman happy because she followed some TBI recovery tips and made a good recovery

Reading about the chances of making a full recovery from TBI can often be discouraging. Many doctors encourage their patients to expect the worst outcome from the rehabilitation process so they will not be disappointed.

While we understand the reasoning behind this position, we disagree. Which leads to our final TBI recovery tip:

Don’t look at yourself as another statistic. This causes limiting beliefs which worm their way deep into your subconscious and keep you from reaching your full potential.

However, staying positive has the exact opposite effect on the subconscious. It can give you the motivation you need to continue with therapy. Which, in the end, is the only sure way to make a good TBI recovery.

Featured Image: ©iStock/demaerre

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