What should I do after a concussion?
What should I do after a concussion?
Well let’s look at the first couple of days after you’ve been diagnosed with a concussion.
The first two days after a concussion are important.
You can make a big impact on your recovery by starting out on the right foot.
The first couple days can set your recovery journey onto the easier and shorter path.
1) Rest during the first 1 - 2 days after a concussion:
Rest, Rest, Rest.
What does that mean?
This means no school, no work, no recreational activities.
We want to avoid too much physical activity as well as too much thinking activity.
Your brain is using a lot of energy for healing.
And get lots of sleep!
Imagine you have the flu. What do you feel like doing? Resting and sleeping.
Treat yourself the same way for the first 1 to 2 days after a concussion.
This is a fantastic way to start your recovery.
But it’s time limited!
The first 24 – 48 hours is when this strategy of lots of rest and sleep is best implemented. After that, it’s time to start to get moving and gradually return to regular life.
2) Something else that's important soon after a concussion:
Avoid electronic screens for the first 2 days.
People that are able to minimize screen use during the first 2 days are typically able to recover sooner.
3) Avoid another injury!
Avoid situations where your head can be hit or where you might fall.
People may be susceptible to another concussion soon after the first. Some research suggests a 10 day window of vulnerability.
So avoid putting yourself in danger of another head injury.
For students, this means no physical education classes in school, and avoiding outdoor recess because sometimes a ball can fly over and hit the student in the head, or the student might get knocked down onto the ground by someone not paying attention to the surroundings.
There are many opportunities for a new injury in a school yard – so it’s often best to avoid it.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean the student should just sit inside all alone. It can be helpful to hang out quietly with a friend during this time. Some students though may find it better to stay in a dimly lit room quietly on their own. It just depends on what feels best initially. Gradually more quiet social interaction during these times will be better tolerated and encouraged.
4) Gradually get back into life after the first 1 – 2 days of rest.
This means going out for short walks, and getting back to school, and getting back to work.
But also taking several breaks through the day. Many people find that fatigue is a significant limiting factor to jumping back into regular life.
Naps are okay if they don't interfere with night time sleep.
Getting back to school: For many students, this means returning to school part time (maybe for a half day), and also being excused from exams and homework initially. Returning to school may also involve a late start and / or an early dismissal from classes to avoid too much noise and commotion in the hallways.
Getting back to work: This is sometimes more challenging because the work environment and requirements may not be as easily adjusted. But ideally, a shorter day and reduced work load would be available as a starting point for a graduated return to work.
5) Planning for several breaks through the day as you start to gradually get back into living regular life again. Try not to wait until symptoms like headache, fatigue, or dizziness become severe before taking a break. Planning a break schedule based on your tolerance to activities can be very helpful in managing your symptoms and improving your productivity.
Don't ignore your symptoms! Some studies have demonstrated that people that push and maintain the highest amounts of thinking activity, as well as those in the highest level of physical activity, tend to take longer to achieve recovery after concussion. So pace yourself and plan on a lot of breaks initially after a concussion. As your tolerance improves, less breaks will be needed.
Staying in complete rest mode hasn’t been shown to be beneficial for recovery, and some studies demonstrate that is slows recovery.
Your recovery can benefit greatly by taking the right steps at the beginning!
So set yourself up for success!
Building a Rehabilitation Program is also a great idea after the first few days.
Check out our schedule on our Concussion Page