After a concussion, guided exercise can help you feel better faster
Thanks to increased attention to the dangers of concussions, more medical professionals are taking them seriously and advising rest. But how long do you need to rest?
It’s extremely important to immediately stop any strenuous activity in the short term, right after a concussion, to give the brain time to repair itself. It’s also important to undergo a formal evaluation right away. Athletes who continue to play in a game after a concussion often have longer recovery times and are at risk of suffering a second concussion while recovering from the first. This can be very dangerous.
Some medical professionals recommend staying home from work or school and limiting computer use, reading and physical activity for a week afterward. In certain cases, such as when someone loses consciousness or experiences confusion or amnesia after a concussion, this type of extended rest may be especially necessary.
However, studies also show that an aerobic exercise program, when performed under the direction of a concussion specialist, can improve recovery time. Some of the benefits of aerobic exercise after a concussion include: improved regulation of blood flow in the brain; an increase in neurotrophins, which help brain tissue to heal; improved sleep; and decreased anxiety and depression. Youth athletes with concussive injury were found to have improved physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep related symptoms after participation in an individualized active rehabilitation program. Earlier initiation of aerobic exercise has also been associated with faster full return to sport and school work in adolescent concussions.
Often, after we evaluate our concussion patients, we’ll start them off with a walking program, encouraging them to get their heart rate up to a specific range without triggering any strong dizziness or headaches. Then we’ll gradually increase the intensity of the exercise, customizing their workout based on the type of activities they want to resume. When this process is done under the direction of a specialist like our team of physical therapists, who can monitor heart rate, blood pressure and symptom levels, exertional therapy can be an excellent tool for a successful recovery.
For a comprehensive concussion evaluation with our team of specialists, call 952-345-3000.