Many people seem to recover from a concussion within a week or two. That’s great!
BUT some people may take longer.
Some people are considered slow to recover and experience Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms.
Defining slow to recover from a concussion:
In adults, people with symptoms lasting more than two weeks are considered slow to recover from concussion.
In children and adolescents, symptoms lasting more than one month are considered slow to recover from concussion.
When someone is experiencing Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms, there is a strong case for initiating a Concussion Rehabilitation Program.
As a comparison, let’s imagine you have a sprained ankle. If you continue to have problems with pain or stiffness or unsteadiness after a few weeks, being involved in a rehabilitation program can help you recover more quickly or more fully. For example, by working on specific stretches every day, the stiffness could be encouraged to recover more quickly, and the final result may be more flexibility than you would achieve by just walking around. In the end, you would have a healthier ankle after rehabilitation than without.
The same can be true with a rehabilitation program after concussion if you’re slow to recover.
The assessment should identify the specific difficulties you’re experiencing. The assessment should not start with “How do you feel?” People may not have the words to describe exactly how they are feeling, and may not even know what symptoms could be related to the concussion. Many people may just respond, “I don’t know. I just feel awful.” A good concussion assessment should inquire about specific symptoms and what makes each worse as well as better.
The rehabilitation program should break each of the symptoms down into smaller bite sized pieces in order to build a management and exercise program best suited to your condition. It's also important to identify if there are symptoms that are interconnected. For example, your daily afternoon headache might be linked to your increasing fatigue level, so one management strategy might be to build a rest break in the middle of the day in order to both reduce the fatigue as well as prevent the headache.
Of course, you don’t need to wait until you officially join the ‘slow to recover’ club before beginning a rehabilitation program after concussion. Just like a sprained ankle, you can start therapeutic intervention very early in the recovery process.
Actually, in the beginning, the rehabilitation process starts by taking the right amount of rest at the very start of recovery. After a concussion, it’s recommended that you take 1 - 2 days off school or work, as well as avoid electronic screens. Driving is also discouraged. Again, just like a sprained ankle might need a couple days of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, a concussion needs its own type of rest. In the case of concussion, this initial rest period is usually related to thinking type activities as well as heavier physical exertion. Think of it like this: Treat yourself like you would if you had the flu – staying home, resting and sleeping a lot, not shopping, not doing yard work, not catching up on home projects, etc. Rest and recover is the rule for the first couple days after a concussion. Starting your recovery the right way can help reduce the amount of time it takes to recover.
Afterward, you can begin the next steps of building your recovery with some help and guidance.