by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
If you go get medical treatment for a concussion, you will most likely be asked to lie down in a dark room until all your symptoms disappear. That’s one of the most common methods that doctors use to treat a concussion. It is because many doctors learned that rest is the best way for patients to heal from a concussion in a safe manner. But that is no longer the best practice. According to research, active management of a concussion seems to show better outcomes.
Disclaimer: If you think you have suffered from a concussion, do not try to treat a concussion by simply using Google and self-diagnosing. It is recommended that you call a medical professional and ask for their expert advice on the next steps. This article is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is merely for informational purposes only. Do not take this as medical advice.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of brain injury. It can happen when the head suddenly and violently hits an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. A concussion can also occur when the head and upper body are shaken back and forth.
The severity of a concussion can vary. Some people recover quickly with no lingering effects. Others may have headaches, memory problems, trouble concentrating, and other issues that last for days or weeks.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
A concussion can show many various signs that something isn’t right. Some of the signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:
- Abnormal behavior
- Differently sized pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Clear fluid coming from the ears or nose
- Severe weakness
- Vomiting more than once
- Loss of feeling in any part of the body
- Persistent, severe balance problems
- Headache (this is often the main symptom, and it can be mild but usually gets worse with activity)
- Dizziness (you may feel faint when you stand up, even if you haven’t been lying down for long periods of time, or you might feel like the room is spinning or that your surroundings are moving around you)
- Memory problems (such as having difficulty recalling what happened just before or after your injury)
- Confusion (for example, not knowing where you are)
- Slowness in thinking, speaking, or reacting (for example, taking longer than usual to answer simple questions)
- Fatigue (tiredness, which may make it hard to complete simple tasks at home, school, or work)
- Sensitivity to light and noise (for example, needing sunglasses indoors or turning up the radio when there’s background noise)
What You Should Do After a Concussion
What you do after a concussion is dependent on how severe the injury is. If there is significant bleeding or any of the other emergency symptoms mentioned above, you should consult a health care provider immediately.
If you notice that you are not in immediate danger, then you have a choice. You can go to a doctor or a concussion clinic to get an official diagnosis along with personalized guidance. You can also try to treat a concussion at home (again, do this at your own risk).
How to Treat a Concussion at Home
Rest is an important part of recovery from a concussion, but that is not the only thing you should do. It is important to note that how you treat a concussion requires cognitive stimulation and exercise during the recovery process.
Here are a few things you can do to treat a concussion at home beyond resting, but you should speak to your doctor to ensure they understand the situation and agree with the following methods to treat a concussion at home.
1. Do cardio for 30 minutes each day
Do not do any exercise that requires jostling your head. For instance, do not go for a run as your form of cardio when you have a concussion. If you have a stationary bike or an elliptical machine, then you can use those as they are ideal for getting your blood pumping without making the concussion worse and jolting your head around.
Cardio is important because it helps your brain heal and keeps it in shape, which can make your recovery faster. The key here is to go slow and easy—you don’t want to push yourself too hard or risk another injury!
2. Engage in cognitively demanding activities right after exercise
Exercise produces an increase in helpful neurochemicals like BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which has been shown to help improve cognitive flexibility. That denotes cognitive exercise post physical exercise is more effective. Try reading a book, or you can indulge yourself in an intellectually demanding conversation with someone.
3. Relax your autonomic nervous system
Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates unconscious bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, and blood pressure. When your ANS is activated, it may cause symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, headache, pupil dilation, and sensitivity to light.
4. Limit exposure to bright lights and loud sounds
If you’ve been diagnosed with a concussion, you should limit exposure to bright lights. While this may sound counterintuitive, bright lights can actually cause headaches and nausea in some people. You should also avoid loud noises and try to keep your eyes open as little as possible. If you’re at home, try dimming the lights, not watching television or playing video games, and keeping the volume down on any music or audiobooks that you listen to.