Mild Brain Injury Recovery

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1 2011 Mild Brain Injury Recovery

2 Mild Brain Injury Recovery What is a mild brain injury? A brain injury is often caused by trauma to the head for any reason. If you had a change in your level of consciousness, or loss of consciousness for less than an hour, the injury was most likely mild. You may have also heard it called a concussion. What happens in a brain injury? When the head is struck, the brain may be shaken inside the skull. This can result in abnormal functioning of the cells of the brain. Like a bruise on your arm or leg, this will most likely resolve with time. Most people who suffer a minor brain injury recover completely in time because the damage is minor and heals. How long will the symptoms last? You have probably become a lot better over the last few days. Many people can gradually go back to their normal activities within 2 or 3 weeks if they take it easy. Most people will be back to normal by 3 months. Be mindful that not everyone recovers at the same rate. People who are under 40 typically recover faster and have fewer symptoms during their recovery than those who are over 40. 1

3 How will I know if something is wrong? Symptoms are part of the normal recovery process and are not necessarily signs of permanent brain damage or medical complications. The symptoms often disappear without any special treatment. You may not become aware of the symptoms until a week to ten days after the accident, or when you are getting back to your normal activities. They are a signal that you are taking on too much too fast. Use the symptoms as a reminder that you need more rest as you recover. As your stamina gradually improves, these symptoms should lessen. About % of people have symptoms that last longer than 3-6 months. This is much more common in people who have a persistent headache or who have had other injuries in the accident that caused long lasting pain. The most important thing is to get the pain under control. Treatment for any emotional problems that may have appeared can also reduce these symptoms. People who had emotional problems or a lot of stress in their lives before their accident often find these problems reappear or get worse with the extra stress of pain. Symptoms you may have: 1. Poor concentration. You may notice that you have trouble concentrating when you are in a noisy room or when you have to pay attention to more than one thing at a time (such as when you are cooking a meal or taking notes while listening to a lecture). Poor concentration is often caused by being tired. If you continue to have problems with concentration, your workday, class schedule or daily routine should be temporarily shortened. Trying to tough it out will not help and usually makes things worse. 2

4 2. Poor memory. You may find you remember most things but sometimes have trouble with remembering appointments or what you have read or been told. Memory difficulties after a mild brain injury have several causes. The most common causes are a result of poor concentration and being tired. Concentration problems and some memory trouble are normally seen during the recovery phase. 3. Fatigue. It is normal to be more tired after a brain injury. The only sensible treatment for being tired is rest. Avoid tiring yourself out. Gradually increase your activity level. If your symptoms become worse, this is often a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. 4. You may have the following due to problems with concentration and fatigue: Difficulty with planning and organizing. For example, you may leave out important details when you are planning your day, or you may not leave yourself enough time to do things. Making mistakes. You may find that you are making mistakes in situations where you did not before. Irritability and mood swings. You may notice you lose your patience more quickly or that you have a difficult time controlling yourself when you are angry. 3

5 5. Depression and anxiety. Having a mild brain injury is challenging. You may not feel like yourself and worry that you may never recover. You may feel others do not understand what you are going through because, to them, you look healthy. These are common feelings after a mild brain injury that often leads to feelings of depression and anxiety. You may have trouble sleeping and/or you may find that you are avoiding being around other people. If these symptoms get worse, or interfere with your daily routines, you should discuss this with your family doctor. 6. Headaches. Headaches are a normal part of the recovery process but that does not make them any less bothersome. Persistent headaches cause concentration and memory problems in people who have never had a brain injury so it is likely that concentration will improve as the headache improves. Seeking treatment for headaches is very important. Your family doctor can help you with this. 7. Dizziness, visual difficulties and light sensitivity. These are common symptoms during recovery from mild brain injury. They usually resolve by 3-6 months. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should let your family doctor know. 4

6 What should I do if I encounter these problems? Look at your day; make sure you have not pushed yourself too much. It is important to build rest periods into your day. Eating healthy and staying hydrated will help with your recovery. Learn to manage your fatigue. Increase your activity slowly. Speak to your family doctor, neurosurgeon or physiatrist before returning to work, school or driving. You should be symptom free or have your symptoms well managed prior to considering returning to these activities. Avoid activities that put you at higher risk of re-injury. Examples of these types of activities are: climbing on ladders or stools, contact sports, driving motorized vehicles -ATV, snowmobile, and motorcycle, skating, skateboarding, skiing, and snowboarding. Avoid the use of alcohol or drugs. Consult with your family doctor, neurosurgeon or physiatrist before resuming this activity. It can take upwards of 3-6 months to feel like yourself again when recovering from mild brain injury. Even though you experienced a mild injury to your brain, all brain injuries are serious. By taking care of yourself and following these recommendations you decrease the chances of a poor recovery. 5

7 For additional support and information contact your local Brain Injury Association (BIANS) at (902) or the Acquired Brain Injury Navigator at CDHA (902) The members of your multidisciplinary team who worked with you were: Physician Nurse Practitioner Social Work Occupational Therapist Other Looking for more health information? Contact your local public library for books, videos, magazine articles and online health information. For a list of public libraries in Nova Scotia go to Capital Health promotes a smoke-free and scent-free environment. Please do not use perfumed products. Thank you! Capital Health, Nova Scotia Prepared by: Multidisciplinary Team, Neurosurgery Illustrations by: Multidisciplinary Team, Neurosurgery, Halifax Designed and Printed by: Capital Health Audio Visual and Printing Departments The information in this brochure is provided for information and education purposes only. The information is not intended to be and does not constitute healthcare or medical advice. If you have any questions, please ask your healthcare provider. WL Revised September 2011 The information in this pamphlet is to be updated every 3 years.

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