Updated: Mar 18
If you or someone close to you has ever sustained a concussion, you may have heard the words, “Go to a dark room, don’t look at bright screens, don’t go to sleep, and rest as much as you can”. Not only is that information outdated, but it is practically the opposite of the advice prominent physicians and researchers in the concussion field would now give you. In reality, this protocol is detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health, as it only leads to a longer recovery, increased anxiety and stress due to falling behind on work, and a higher instance of depression from boredom and lack of exercise and sunlight. Technological advances and new research have come a long way since then. Now, there are better techniques for comprehensively treating concussions that shorten recovery times and produce better outcomes.
Gone are the days of missing sports, school, work, or other important life events because of your concussion. Do yourself a favor and treat your concussion properly and quickly with these scientifically-based practices and steps.
1. Seek an EyeSync Certified Concussion Expert at CTS
If you suspect you have suffered from a concussion, immediately see a provider that administers a comprehensive concussion evaluation and utilizes an FDA-approved, virtual reality eye-tracking device, as we do at CTS. CTS’s comprehensive evaluation looks at a number of systems including:
We provide a personalized recovery plan that may include vestibular physical therapy, dynamic vision therapy, or neck physical therapy. We also use virtual reality eye-tracking training to improve brain functions
2. Begin Cardiovascular Exercise Early in Your Recovery
The latest research shows that early cardiovascular exercise has been proven to help speed up concussion recovery. It is important to seek help to find the right level of exercise for you, and the CTS therapists can give you a proper exercise prescription. With the help of your physical therapist, begin doing moderate-intensity cardio exercise as soon as possible. Stanford Medicine recommends stationary biking as the best type of exercise at first, as it involves little to no head and neck movement. As your symptoms resolve, however, you can move on to other types of cardio exercise.
The recommended cardio exercise plan is:
At least 4x per week (daily, if you are an athlete)
20-30 minutes of exercise at a time
Target Heart Rate:
3. Ensure High Quality Sleep
Following a concussion, many patients experience sleep-related symptoms from excessive tiredness to insomnia. While previous regimens recommended that someone suffering a concussion sleep and rest as much as possible, new research recommends that you improve your sleep quality by trying to sleep through the night but not at random intervals during the day.
Here are some tips for improving your sleep quality.
Get consistent sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time each night
Avoid lights such as phones, TV, overhead lights right before bed
Create a pre-sleep routine that relaxes you. This could include bathing, meditating, reading, etc.
Don’t work or do stressful things in your bedroom
Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool (60-75˚F)
Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine, at least 6 hours before your bedtime, as these substances all negatively impact sleep quality.
Try not to nap during the day
Don’t exercise late in the evening. Exercise daily, but do so in advance of regular sleep hours
Hydrate and eat lighter meals in the evening
Treat other disorders that could impact your sleep quality such as sleep apnea, heart failure, lung disease, anxiety, or depression.
4. Monitor and Manage Your Mood
It is common to experience mood changes after experiencing a concussion. Mood changes can include feeling generally more emotional, anxious, or depressed, or becoming more easily irritated, etc. If you experience any of these mood changes, you can address them by:
Track your mood to identify triggers
Pace yourself with work and difficult tasks
Reduce stress with deep breathing, visual imagery, muscle relaxation etc.
Getting a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist
“Materials for referring providers with patients who are post-concussion greater than 3 months and less than one year”. Stanford Health Care, Stanford Medicine, Concussion and Brain Performance Center. PDF file.
*Information is based on Concussion Guidelines Step 2: Evidence for Subtype Classification publication in Neurosurgery, 2019