How Do You Rehabilitate After Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury rehabilitation aims to minimize the long term impact of the brain injury by teaching the brain learn alternative ways of working.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Post-traumatic brain injury rehabilitation and therapy

Worldwide, traumatic brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability in people under 40. When a sudden injury (a closed head injury) causes damage to the brain, it is termed a traumatic brain injury. Symptoms that surface after traumatic brain injury can include loss of coordination, dizziness, headaches, loss of concentration, blurry vision, temporary memory loss, and other personality changes. In younger people, most traumatic brain injuries are caused by auto accidents, assaults, and sports injuries. For people older than 70, the leading cause of traumatic brain injury is falling.

In the case of traumatic brain injury, doctors consider various treatments that even include surgery. In most cases, a simple medication course or surgery is not enough. That’s why therapy and rehabilitation are often recommended for patients with severe traumatic brain injury. Although you’ll be required to change your routine and get more rest in a concussion, an extended stay in rehab is highly recommended when doctors diagnose the high severity of brain injury. Before we understand why rehabilitation is an effective option, our traumatic brain injury lawyer discusses the different types of traumatic brain injury.

Types of brain injuries

  • Concussion: A concussion shakes your brain. It is also called mild traumatic brain injury. In this brain injury, the brain gets jolted, accelerating the brain toward the force. A few generations ago, doctors believed a concussion was just like a little inconvenience, but times have changed, and it is considered an injury that can have a life-long impact on a person’s life. People who suffer from frequent concussions are prone to developing the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (it starts to change a person’s brain function, mood, and behavior).
  • Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury: When the brain slams into the opposite side of the impact site, this injury occurs as a result. Hence, there is damage on both sides (the impact site and the opposite side). Although all traumatic brain injuries can be severe, this one is incredibly violent because both sides are affected, and the results are immediate and severe. A person suffering from Coup-Contrecoup brain injury may require extensive support to recover fully.
  • Brain Contusion: A brain contusion mainly occurs in conjunction with a concussion. Although it is just a bruise that can cause internal bleeding, it can become dangerous if it doesn’t stop. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, it must be stopped surgically. It is considered a mild brain injury but can become dangerous if not diagnosed and treated on time.
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury: This brain injury is similar to a concussion but is way more severe. Just like concussions, the brain accelerates in the direction of the force. However, the acceleration is fast, and the brain hits the hard skull with more impact. As a result of this violent movement, the brain stem cannot keep up with the rate of movement, and it causes small microscopic tears of tissues and structures, which can be fatal in some cases. The damages can be permanent or temporary, and there can be a coma or even death.  Brain death can occur when the brain’s communication and chemical processes get disturbed due to torn nerve tissues.
  • Second Impact Syndrome: Second impact syndrome injury is often called a recurrent traumatic brain injury. Once you’ve sustained a first brain injury, a second brain injury during the recovering process is called second impact syndrome. Imagine having a healing wound and then getting into an accident that reopens that wound – there can be catastrophic damage. Doctors believe a second impact can cause more harm than the first one. Getting rest and proper treatment after the first impact is essential.
  • Penetrating Injury: As the name suggests, this injury occurs when an object penetrates the skull and brain. Given that there can be blood loss, disrupted oxygen supply, and blood clots, this injury can be fatal if not immediately treated. Although bullets are the leading cause of penetrating injuries, there are cases of auto accidents as well.

Importance of rehabilitation for post-traumatic brain injury

You need to understand that you should never take traumatic brain injury lightly. If there is any brain injury, seek medical attention without wasting time. Once your brain injury is diagnosed, your doctor will give you some medication, or surgery will be required in a severe case. Surgery is considered an effective option to repair your skull, remove a hematoma, or release some pressure in your skull. If you had surgery or needed extensive treatment for your severe brain injury, rehabilitation is the most essential key to your recovery.

Here are a few key reasons why rehabilitation therapy is essential:

  • It helps improve your brain function and enhances your ability to function at home or outside
  • Rehabilitation therapy restores lost functional abilities such as talking, eating, using the bathroom, etc.
  • It helps you adapt to the changes that have occurred after the traumatic brain injury
  • It provides much-needed social and emotional support
  • It helps stabilize the medical and rehabilitation issues
  • It helps prevent complications that occur during/after treatment, such as pressure sores and contractures

Rehabilitation programs for traumatic brain injury

As people have different needs and abilities for the proper recovery from traumatic brain injury, the rehab program is designed specifically for individuals. According to the severity of your injury, it is likely that there will be many healthcare providers monitoring your rehab. There can be different settings for recovery. You and your family can decide which setting is more suitable. You can choose from rehab settings such as home-based, inpatient, outpatient, or a comprehensive day program.

The best rehabilitation programs for you are based on your needs and abilities. They may include these programs:

  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Locomotor training
  • Physical therapy and medicine
  • Psychological care
  • Psychiatric care
  • Occupational therapy
  • Social support
  • Upper and lower extremity retraining
  • Aqua therapy
  • Complex concussion
  • Day programs
  • Speech ability
  • Strength and coordination
  • Mental and behavioral state

The duration of your rehabilitation depends on the severity of your brain injury, recovery speed, and how well you respond to it. Rehabilitation is effective, and some people even return to their same level of ability before the traumatic brain injury. In severe cases, there is a possibility of lifetime rehabilitation. You need to know that rehabilitation can be beneficial. Still, there is also a possibility that some long-term problems associated with traumatic brain injury show up after years, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or dementia.

What happens after rehabilitation is done?

Once your rehabilitation program is completed, you will be given some instructions, such as:

  • Call your doctor as soon as you notice some symptoms and signs
  • Symptoms and signs that shouldn’t concern you a lot
  • Advise on limited-to-no use of alcohol and refrain from using drugs
  • Avoid sports such as football or rides such as roller coasters
  • Availability of community support resources

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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