This week’s Guest Blogger Sarah Brittain, M.S., CCC-SLP owns Colorado Brain Recovery (http://coloradobrainrecovery.com).
“Rest”, “sit in a dark room”, “no screens”, “your brain will heal itself” are all common things heard after sustaining a concussion. This theory of resting and letting the brain heal itself was based on a decision made by doctors from long ago who didn’t use science. It has since been debunked.
Yes, that’s right. Concussion no longer equals dark room. Well, maybe take it easy for a couple of days, but the research shows that returning to your life and activity is important, with one caveat, getting the appropriate care.
Concussion treatment is similar to early intervention for late talkers. We have no reliable way of knowing who might go on to experience persistent post concussive syndrome (well sort of). There are several prognostic indicators that have come to be accepted as predictors of more protracted recovery including prior psychiatric/psychological conditions, age, being of the female sex, and prior head injuries. I digress. Getting back to the point, early intervention is paramount. Setting the expectations for what recovery may look like, providing people with strategies to manage/cope with their deficits in the acute phase, and providing them with the appropriate referrals is key. Dizzy? Go see a vestibular physical therapist. Trouble managing your daily tasks or tasks at work? See a cognitive therapist (more on this later). Working with these professionals who are well versed in concussive injuries can help to manage your symptoms (which are oftentimes exacerbated by stressors such as work, house tasks, etc).
Having a concussion, for the majority of people, is not a sentence for cognitive dysfunction or dizziness forever. It simply means that for a period of time, your brain needs to heel. When you break your leg, an incredibly less complex system you aren’t just told to rest and see you are given a treatment plan. The brain, the most complex organ in our body should command this same level of care and attention.
So when you hit your head, take it easy for a couple of days but then get help from the appropriate providers, which will help to expedite your recovery.
Not familiar with what cognitive therapy is? Then read on…
Cognitive Rehabilitation, not to be confused with cognitive behavioral therapy, is a treatment usually provided by speech-language pathologists. Don’t let the name of speech-language pathologist fool you, we are also trained in cognition and everything brain related! Cognitive Rehabilitation is NOT computer games like Lumosity, or filling out Sudokus. It is also NOT talk therapy – we do not address any psychological issues. Back to Sudokus and Lumosity. Will those activities hurt you? No. But they definitely don’t help you when you lose your car keys or remember that important conversation you had with your boss. Good cognitive rehabilitation is learning strategies to improve how you perform. Almost like learning tricks for a chess match would help you for your next game, cognitive rehab is learning tools that will help you perform better tomorrow. Do we work on getting areas like memory better? Yes and no. We will teach you all about it, and tell you how to do it but the work will be for you to do. Sitting in our office and memorize word lists that have no meaning to you isn’t the best use of time and resources. Good cognitive rehabilitation is individualized. That means it is tailored to you and what your challenges are. This is why we will always have a job! Lastly, a good cognitive therapist should be able to be fired after a handful of sessions (for most concussions). At this point your tool kit should be full and you should be performing better in your daily life.
To recap, a good cognitive therapist will 1) make you do the work (but not computer games), 2) give you an incredible toolkit to perform better and 3) only see you for a handful of sessions.
— Sarah Brittain, M.S., CCC-SLP