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Coping with symptoms and getting better


Recovering from a concussion


Rest your brain

  • In the early stages of recovery get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day
  • To rest your brain you need to reduce the demands you make of it.  If you are reading, watching TV, checking e-mails or worrying you are not resting your brain.
  • Use Sleep Hygiene techniques if you are having trouble sleeping
  • If sleep problems continue talk to your doctor

Reduce physical and mental demands

  • Physical and mental demands can make your symptoms worse and slow your recovery
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding e.g., heavy housecleaning, working-out, mowing the lawn, lifting and carrying heavy items
  • Avoid activities that require a lot of concentration e.g., reading, video games, studying, computer work
  • Avoid activities that could lead to a second concussion e.g. contact or recreational sports
  • It is best to avoid jarring movements such as running, jumping on trampolines, riding roller coasters or other high-speed rides that can make your symptoms worse
  • When your doctor says you are well enough, return to your normal activities gradually, not all at once. UseEnergy Conservation techniques

Use strategies for your thinking problems

  • Tips for Managing Thinking Problems has some ideas that can help to lessen the impact of thinking changes
  • Consult with family members or close friends when making important decisions
  • Avoid using the computer for long periods of time early in the recovery process. This includes avoiding computer and video games.

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Take care of your basic needs

  • Make time for careful grooming and hygiene daily
  • Take care of your appearance and clothing
  • Eat three nutritious meals / day, do not skip breakfast
  • Avoid / limit caffeine, salt, sugar and junk food
  • Keep hydrated, drink water

Say no to drugs and alcohol

  •  Alcohol and other drugs will slow your recovery and put you at risk of further injury
  • Take only those drugs that your doctor has approved
  • Do not drink alcohol until your doctor says you are well enough

Get help for pain and headaches

  • Refer to the handout on post-concussion headaches (to come)
  • If you have headaches or body pain you will not be able to sleep and are more likely to be irritable
  • Review medication and other treatment options with your doctor
  • Listen to the podcast “A Pain in the Brain - The Problem of Headache after Traumatic Brain Injury” fromNortheast Center for Special Care

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Be especially careful if you are dizzy and have poor balance

  • Be very careful to avoid falls or hits to the head
  • Take special care in your actions and movements. Move slowly and constantly be aware of your surroundings
  • Do not climb stepladders or work from heights

Pay attention to your mood and level of stress

  • Stress, irritability, sadness and anxiety are common and normal reactions to having to cope with your symptoms and the changes in your lifestyle
  • Find ways to relax such as music, meditation, writing, prayer, and slow deep breathing
  • Keep a positive and optimistic outlook. Feel confident in the healing process, know that  you are improving, focus on your strengths, have realistic expectations, look for opportunities in your current situation, and set short term goals
  • Maintain social connections with friends, but keep it low key initially
  • Check out the online workbooks on coping with stress, depression and health conditions at C.O.M.H.
  • If you experience persistent mood changes talk to your doctor

Resume exercise and sports gradually

  • Avoid any strenuous exercise or activity in the first few days or weeks following your concussion
  • Once your symptoms settle down start with light aerobic exercise such as walking
  • Gradually increase frequency (how often), then duration (length of time), and finally intensity (how heavy, how fast, how hard) of exercise
  • If your symptoms get worse then reduce the intensity and duration
  • Get your doctors consent before returning to intensive exercise or competitive sports
  • Follow the Return to Play (or activity) Guidelines from Parachute

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Get your doctors approval for driving

  • Because your ability to react may be slower after a concussion, ask your doctor when you can safely drive a car, ride a bike, or operate heavy equipment

Resume work and school gradually

  • Plan for success. Start by slowly building your cognitive and physical endurance
  • Just like resuming exercise, it is important that you return to work or school in a graduated way and start with activities that are within your abilities.  Slowly increase the duration and frequency that you work / study
  • You may initially need modified (fewer demands) work duties or a reduced course load. Working a shorter day, working fewer days and taking frequent rest breaks during the day may be necessary. Getting permission for additional time to write an exam may be possible
  • Talk with your doctor about the requirements of your work / studies, the modifications you need and when you can return to work / school
  • Keep your employer aware of what is going on
  • Meet with the advisor for students with disabilities in the counselling department at your college / university to plan for your needs
  • Make sure you have a good quality, properly fitted hard hat (if required) and follow the safety procedures mandated on work sites

Prevent a 2nd, 3rd………..or 4th concussion

  • As you are healing, take care to avoid having another concussion. At all times be smart about the risks you take and adopt an attitude of prevention

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Project launch made possible by:

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Rick Hansen Foundation, BC Neurotrauma Fund

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The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.