Implementing a self-care routine after a brain injury could improve long term recovery outcomes. Although many patients recover from concussions, ignoring symptoms by returning to our regular activities may cause more harm in the long run. Even a mild concussion can become serious weeks or months down the road.

If we injure our leg or arm, for example, we know our doctor will treat the injury and recommend post-injury protocols such as how often to rest, and when to start physical therapy. Most physical injuries have an expected timeline for recovery. We follow our doctor’s advice, make adaptations to our lives to accommodate the injury in hopes of healing quickly, and returning to our daily routine.  Concussions in various forms are invisible brain injuries. The brain also needs a post-injury protocol, and recovery times can vary depending on many factors. According to WebMD, there are three grades of concussions.  The standardized protocol for treatments of patients who require no hospitalization but may be suffering from post-concussion syndrome is rest, minimizing stress and medications for patients experiencing pain. We may hear from day one the importance of physical and mental rest, and an estimation of when we can return to light activity and work. Although invaluable advice, for some patients, symptoms can gradually worsen as time goes on.

A more comprehensive self-care plan may be in the hands of the patient who self-advocates from the beginning for their long-term recovery outcome. Instead of waiting for further symptoms to emerge, taking a preventative approach by implementing a self-care protocol after brain injury to avoid further damage to the brain could be a definite game-changer for many.

Dr. Terry Wahls M.D. has first-hand experience treating veterans with traumatic brain injuries. Her post-concussion treatment plan proved beneficial to many of her patients. She recommends significantly reducing stress, changing our lifestyle and diet to incorporate nutrient-dense brain-healthy foods while decreasing or removing grains, and eliminating simple carbohydrates and sugar. Many complications from concussions can ignite chronic inflammation in our brain and body. Functional medicine physicians who understand the risk of long-term complications from head injuries will educate patients on how to heal the gut-brain axis after brain injury.

Brain injuries, in many cases, are an unexpected forced time out. Following a self-care plan can improve emotional reactions, fatigue, and enhance overall healing, giving us the capacity to function better when needed. Healing can come from all areas of our lives. During our recovery efforts receiving love and support from friends and family who understand, and finding grace and forgiveness for those who don’t, are the emotional aspects of self-care that can positively improve our well being — remembering our daily prayers to the Lord for healing along with allowing grace and peace for ourselves when our recovery efforts seem like an uphill battle.