Treating Post-Concussion Syndrome
If you’ve been in a car accident, fallen headfirst, or otherwise taken a blow to your head, you may have sustained an injury to your brain. Even if you didn’t immediately lose consciousness or experience confusion, as is typical of a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), you may have incurred the most common form of mild TBI—a concussion.
Oftentimes, this injury cannot be seen on CT or MRI scans, because the damage is so minor. However, the effects can still severely impact your life in physical, emotional, and cognitive ways; these persisting effects from minor brain damage are what we call Post-Concussion Syndrome, or PCS.
What’s happening when PCS occurs?
The brain is made up of thousands and thousands of long, thin nerve fibers. If your head is hit hard enough for a concussion to occur, some of these nerves will be torn or broken. Fortunately, your brain has many other thousands of nerve cells which are not damaged as a result of the injury and which attempt to take over the work of the damaged nerve cells.
During the first few months after the injury, the brain works to heal itself, just like your body works to heal a bruise on your arm. As your brain and body conduct this hard work, symptoms are felt not only physically, but emotionally and cognitively, as well. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can use to ease your symptoms, compensate for your limited capacities, and assist your body in recovery.
How can I treat the symptoms of PCS?
Every person’s experience with PCS looks different, and depending on your overall health and the particular cause of injury, the symptoms will vary. So, let’s address these healing strategies as they relate to each potential symptom.
Here’s what you can do:
If you’re experiencing memory problems:
- Use a notebook, calendar or daytimer to keep track of important information. Carry it with you at all times.
- Record appointment times.
- Note the names of new people.
- (Use a cueing system to help remember their names—a description of the person, for example.)
- Write down all important information, such as questions you want to ask healthcare providers or information you want to share with your family.
- Make use of alarms or timers to remind you when it’s time to do certain tasks.
- Use several modalities when memorizing—say it loudly, visualize it and write it down.
If you’re struggling with attention and concentration:
- Organize your environment as much as possible.
- Minimize visual and auditory distractions, such as television and radio.
- If you have to work in a noisy environment, try wearing earplugs.
- When at work, keep your door closed.
- When driving, keep the radio off.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are lacking motivation:
- Make a daily schedule. Check off activities as you complete them.
- Break large tasks into small ones.
If you’re experiencing perceptual problems or processing information more slowly:
- Write down and repeat back verbal information, such as directions and phone numbers.
- Allow more time to complete activities.
If you’re experiencing fatigue:
- Schedule breaks throughout the day for rest.
- Complete especially cerebral activities in the morning or early afternoon.
- Exercise daily.
- Focus on improving sleeping habits.
- Maintain a balanced diet.
- Set limits on your energy output.
How will these strategies aid recovery?
You may experience the above symptoms all at once, or you may notice their development over the course of several weeks or months. As you experience a new symptom, try the correlating, self-supportive tools. It’s incredible the recovery the body can achieve with some support.
By the time six months have passed since your accident, you should be feeling very close to normal. But employing these assistive strategies can allow you to achieve much higher functionality along the way, and may quicken your recovery time.
How can The Brain and Behavior Clinic help?
Beyond these self-administered methods, the Brain and Behavior Clinic can, with our research-based approach and years of experience, develop a personalized treatment plan that holistically addresses physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms to most effectively minimize the effects of post-concussion syndrome on daily life.
Learn more about BBC’s treatment plans, or schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.
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