Concussions are brain injuries that result from the brain hitting the skull or a strain on neural tissue due to excessive force. This force can be direct, like a hit to the head, or indirect, like whiplash in a car accident.
Concussion symptoms range from mild to severe and include:
- loss of consciousness
- headache, which may range in intensity from mild to severe
- poor memory or concentration
- sensitivity to noise, light, or both
- dizziness or vertigo
- blurred vision
- sudden mood changes, including irritability, unexplained crying, or depression
- nausea or vomiting
- poor balance
- reduced hearing
- trouble sleeping
While concussions can cause a loss of consciousness on impact, this doesn’t always happen. In fact, 81 to 92 percent of concussions don’t involve loss of consciousness. In addition, symptoms can appear anywhere from the time of impact to several days after the initial injury.
In most cases, concussion recovery takes about 7 to 10 days. However, if you don’t get enough rest or follow your doctor’s recommendations, recovery may take a bit longer. Learn more about how long concussions last.
In addition, some people develop a condition called post-concussion syndrome. Experts aren’t sure why this happens. If you have this condition, concussion recovery can take several months or even longer. During this time, you may experience a headache and other concussion symptoms as listed above.
If you’ve recently had a concussion and are still having symptoms after 7 to 10 days, make an appointment with your doctor to check for signs of post-concussion syndrome.
It’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor if you think you have a concussion. They can determine how severe your concussion is and give you more specific recovery tips.
In the meantime, try these tips to help you quickly recover from a concussion and get back to your usual activities.
1. Reduce screen time
Bright lights and the eyestrain associated with looking at them can sometimes make concussions symptoms worse, especially headaches. As you recover, try to limit the amount of time you spend looking at your phone, laptop, TV, or other screens.
You can also help to counteract the sleep problems associated with concussions by avoiding screens for two hours before going to sleep.
2. Limit exposure to bright lights and loud sounds
After a concussion, you might notice that you’re especially sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds. You may want to try avoiding big crowds and bright fluorescent lighting for a few days while you recover. This will give your body time to heal and prevent light or sound sensitivities from getting worse.
3. Avoid unnecessary movement of your head and neck
Try to avoid anything that causes your head or neck to jostle around. These are the types of motions that can cause a concussion in the first place, and minimizing them gives your brain a chance to recover. While some of these motions might be unavoidable, steer clear of roller coasters and excessive physical activity for a few weeks.
4. Stay hydrated
There’s preliminary evidence that dehydration may increase your risk of concussion. This suggests that staying hydrated is probably a good idea while you recover too. Proper hydration is also important for your overall health, especially while your body is healing.
How much water should you be drinking? Find out.
Resting may be the most important thing you can do while recovering from a concussion. Giving both your mind and body plenty of rest reduces your stress levels and helps your body recover.
Avoid any strenuous exercise for a week or so. If you want to keep exercising, try to keep it light. If you’re a runner, for example, try walking. It’s also best to avoid any heavy lifting for a week.
6. Eat more protein
A 2015 study found that branched-chain amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, may improve some of the cognitive symptoms of a concussion. As you recover, try to eat plenty of protein. Meats, beans, nuts, and fish are all great sources of branched-chain amino acids.
Looking for more options? Here are 20 high-protein foods to help you recover.
7. Eat foods rich in omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to improving both cognition and the recovery of neurons in concussions sustained by mice in a lab setting. They’re also good for overall health, so there’s plenty of benefit to incorporating them in your diet.
Foods rich in omega-3s include fatty fish, such as salon, walnuts, flax seeds, soy, and chia seeds. You can also take fish oil supplements, available on Amazon, to increase your omega-3 intake.
8. Eat foods with lots of antioxidants
9. Be patient
Try to resist the urge to jump right back into your usual daily activities. This can be especially hard if your symptoms come and go. However, taking it easy for a week will help you get back to your everyday life faster.
Try to use this time to catch up on sleep and reduce your overall stress.
10. Follow all your doctor’s orders
Your doctor will likely give you some additional recovery tips. These might include waking yourself up regularly during the first night or taking some time off work.
If headaches are a component of your concussion, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat them.
They can also tell you about signs to watch for and guide you on when it might be a good idea to head to the ER.
Most concussions resolve on their own without any lasting effects. However, some concussions can accompany a more serious injury that requires treatment.
Seek emergency treatment if you notice any of the following after a concussion:
- sudden, intense headaches
- difficulty talking or finding the right words
- tingling or numbness
- difficulty swallowing
- unusual sense of taste
- loss of consciousness
- weakness in the arm or leg
- increased heart rate
- double vision
- loss of balance
- paralysis in any part of the body, including only one side of the face
To be safe, it’s best to talk to a doctor after sustaining any type of head injury. If it’s serious, your chances of making a full recovery are much better if you seek early treatment.