Most doctors will tell you to recover from a concussion by resting and waiting for symptoms to subside. But cutting-edge research shows that rest isn't always best. Concussion clinics in a few states use new strategies. Here's how to know if you need to seek out specialised treatment.
The reason behind the standard treatment is that brain cells need rest to recover, and exercise can exacerbate symptoms, so many doctors will ban exercise and tough mental work (which, for students, may include classwork and homework) while you wait for symptoms to resolve. That works in many cases. But new research is finding that people with long-standing symptoms recover faster when they get to practice certain tasks, training their brains to recover the function that was lost. Outside magazine explains what the regimen looked like for one snowboarder who was treated in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's concussion program:
One of this year's program visitors was Laura Fraser, whose concussion spanned three types (vestibular, ocular, and anxiety/mood). Her prescriptions included staring at a point on the wall while shaking her head, seeking out crowded places where people bustled around her, and focusing on objects at different distances. Her clinicians also insisted that she start exercising again. Running or biking, initially for 20 minutes a day, became part of her recovery program. "It was the opposite of what I'd been hearing for a whole year," she says. But it worked. By December, she was symptom-free and cleared for more snowboarding.
At these concussion clinics, doctors test different aspects of brain function, classifying your symptoms into one or more of six types, and prescribing tasks that help to rehab that type. But this is cutting-edge research, and your family doctor probably hasn't been trained in how to treat concussions this way.
According to the Outside article, the standard treatment of rest is probably fine for many concussions, but here's how you can know if you need specialised treatment:
Head injury symptoms that clear up overnight or within a few days shouldn't pose a concern, experts say. Even a repeat concussion shouldn't require a specialist's care, so long as those effects also fade quickly. But when symptoms last weeks or more, or if they result from multiple head injuries, people should see a specialist — which, for now, may mean travelling out of state to concussions centres in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, or North Carolina. Visit ConcussionClinics.org to find one near you.
Read the full article to learn more about the new concussion treatments.