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The Best Way to Heal from a Concussion: How to Start Recovery Immediately After a Bump on the Head!

Woman holding head concussion

When a toddler or preschooler gets a concussion, it feels really serious!

Our 3-year-old fell off ONE step this summer and hit the side of his head on cement, and even though it didn’t seem like a big deal at first, it turned out to be enough to cause a concussion.

I was madly Googling natural remedies for concussions and how to recover from a concussion, and I wasn’t finding much at first. Modern medical wisdom unfortunately takes a “rest and wait” approach, expecting the brain to heal itself. Our bodies are amazing and often CAN heal themselves, but as Dr. Brian Hanks reminded us in my post about why we see so many more concussions lately, “the brain doesn’t heal, it compensates.”

That’s why even when people feel better, they’re still so much more susceptible to another concussion with a seemingly minor bump on the head. That’s why people may have symptoms that last a really long time, even though they’re functioning “pretty well” overall. And that’s why CTE is making the news in the NFL and military, because there’s a deeper danger in recurrent concussions, simply because the brain never quite heals and is so much more fragile and susceptible.

We all understand that if you have a knee injury, it doesn’t heal on its own completely. You often need rehab, massage, and/or physical therapy to completely get your strength back, even though the tissue may have physically knit back together. It’s the same concept for the brain.

We can see the compensation when a lot of symptoms disappear, and everything seems to be fine, but if someone gets hit again, that’s when bigger problems happen – because it hadn’t healed, it just compensated! It surprises people that they just barely bump their heads and they feel so sensitive after a concussion. Believe me, I’ve been so nervous and on edge every time Gabe hits his head on anything – and 3-year-olds tend to do that a lot, I’ve realized! Just this morning it was on his own brother’s head in the kitchen…and the little guy definitely feels each bump more. 🙁

As I talked to MDs in my circles, did research, and went back to the concussion/TBI episode of Dr. Mark Hyman’s Broken Brain docu-series, I ended up collecting quite a list of options for people trying to heal from a concussion, and I’m really glad I get to share them today since I know so many parents will be searching for these resources.

Related: The Healthy Mind Cookbook Review

Our Story: What Happened After the Concussion

It seems like a concussion should be a one-time event from which your body starts to heal and should go on an upward continuum toward “back to normal,” but that’s not how it happened at all for us. The graph of improvement was definitely a roller coaster!

Our little guy Gabe’s bump happened around 5 p.m., and an hour later or so as we drove home from the grandparents’ to make dinner, he said he was really tired in the van. Uh oh, I thought, That’s not good.

I watched his gait (the way he walked) into the house and couldn’t see anything alarming. I knew a change in gait is a sign of a concussion in a child (toddler, adult, any age really) because I myself had one when I was around 8 years old, and my mother always says she knew something was really wrong when she noticed my gait. She’s a smart lady!

As we were preparing dinner, Gabe laid down on his daddy’s comfortable chest and was immediately starting to fall asleep. We tried to keep him up for dinner, grasping at the slight chance that he was simply tuckered out after a day at the pool, as children sometimes are. I knew in my gut that it was bigger and was already on my phone finding out what options we had to help him through what I was sure was a concussion.

We finally laid him down in his bed, watching him, and a few minutes later he vomited. Then I knew with 100% certainty that we had a concussion on our hands and got on the phone with the doctor on call that evening. Our practice, Christian Healthcare Centers, groups together with other pediatricians, so I didn’t know the doc with whom I was speaking.

He was gentle and full of information, including confirming that the bump possibly caused a more serious reaction because it was the softer side of his head, not the front or back which are more resilient.

toddler sleeping after concussion

This is Gabe sleeping on a junk towel in case he threw up again…washing pillows isn’t awesome! 🙁 He was sooo tired…

We were told that the reason to go to the ER would be that in the first 12 hours, you’re watching for bleeding on the brain; after that, you can expect headaches and such but the risk is over if they’ve gotten through that without vomiting and incoherence. In other words, you SHOULD rush to the hospital if vomiting is repetitive, won’t stop, or the person who hit their head is not making sense.

Naturally, Gabe vomited twice. Did we need to go in? Thankfully we were still on the phone with the doc, and he said twice is probably ok but now we were in the danger zone and needed to go if he vomited again. Ack! 🙁

To repeat: After a bump on the head, any repetitive vomiting means go to the hospital, or one vomiting episode plus any confusion or incoherence. Also of course if there is any loss of consciousness or you can’t wake a person up, off they go to the ER. 

This would be a really good time to remind you that I’m just a mom sharing my story. Although I’ve talked to a lot of doctors and medical professionals about this, I’m only sharing what I learned in the hopes that you can learn something, but this is in no way medical advice and you are 100% responsible for any actions you take (or don’t take) after reading this post. Thanks for understanding! 

The doc counseled us to wake him up every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours, then every 1-2 hours until morning. We were to ask questions like, “What’s your name? Who am I? Where did we swim today?” and make sure he got them right before letting him go back to sleep.

He was VERY hard to wake up the first few times, before 11 p.m. He still answered the questions well although usually he wouldn’t answer at all at first because he was soooo groggy. This was of course nerve wracking for us! He got better and was having conversations with us as the night progressed.

HUUUUUGE NOTE: My friend who is an ER nurse let me know that they no longer recommend waking children up!! So although that’s part of my story, every bone in my body felt wrong about it, and I’m so glad to hear that it’s not done anymore. I actually called our doctor’s office the next day to share what I learned, because I know doctors can’t possibly keep up on everything, all the time. I hope they passed along the info to the doc who had been on call!

I’m a huge believer in the power of sleep to heal, and I knew that would be very important at any opportunity we could give it to him, which was one reason it was so frustrating to have to wake him up all night.

He woke up happy and energetic in the morning and was very hungry as he had slept through dinner. I shared this cute pic with my friends on social media who had been praying for him:

A boy with a concussion

The doctor had admonished us to keep him still as much as possible and do lots of quiet, restful activities. Although we don’t do a lot with screens, it seemed the obvious choice to let him watch a few shows so his body would be still. By mid-morning though, he said his head hurt and I was questioning his gait normalcy.

I learned a day or two later that screens are to be totally avoided in the immediate aftermath of a concussion, ugh, so now it makes sense that his headache came back!! 🙁 He laid down to rest, but I think I slept in the chair in his room while he wiggled around.

He seemed to feel a little better but still complained of the front of his head hurting. At lunch he didn’t want to eat and it was really hurting him; he’d cry out suddenly and grab his forehead, and then it would dissipate. He wanted to lay down for a nap and fell asleep promptly. By the way, if you have a 3-year-old, you know asking for a nap is NOT normal behavior – or at least it’s not in the 3-year-old I’ve been blessed with, so we knew things were still awry!

The doctor had said hydration is very important too, because it increases blood flow to the brain, so we were definitely pushing liquids as much as we could.

When he woke up from his nap, sadly, his head still really hurt and he had quite a crying jag, unable to catch his breath and coughing/gagging. So hard to watch as a parent! He ate dinner fine and went to bed fine, and we weren’t sure what to expect the next day.

Of course, we had a family reunion at a pool party. 🙁 We did go, albeit late to allow for Gabe to get as long of a nap as he needed since he said his head hurt around lunchtime. He swam, but no jumping.

This was probably both a little risky for his head and too much activity. Especially since his head was still hurting, we should have kept him home to let him rest and avoid sensory stimulation, although he did have a really good time and by two more days after that, all headaches had dissipated.

What are the Signs of a Concussion in Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Young Children?

Boy rehabilitating from a concussion

How do you know if your child has had a concussion? Because many people DO get concussions and don’t even know it (you don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion or even be hit in the head!), it’s good to know what to look for.

All of these immediate symptoms of concussion apply to children and adults:
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation, appearing dazed
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurry vision
  • Light-sound sensitivity
  • Headaches (especially one that doesn’t go away)
  • Pre- or post-injury amnesia (not remembering the immediate events around the injury itself)
  • Loss of focus or concentration
  • Poor organization or clarity of thought (ok, that one doesn’t apply to kids as that’s a daily occurrence for many of them!) 😉
  • Changes in gait (the way a person walks) or balance
  • Extreme tiredness at the wrong time
  • Slurred speech
  • Emotional instability: sadness, irritability, anxiety
Important reminder from WebMD: If a child has a concussion, an adult should monitor him or her for the first 24 hours. It’s important to watch for behavioral changes. Young children, especially, may not be able to fully communicate what they are feeling, so it is critical to watch them closely.

You can often see “saccades” or interruptions in tracking, not smooth eye movements.

Watch this video for some tips from a functional neurologist on how to tell if someone has a concussion:


If you can’t see the video above, click How to Figure Out Signs of a Concussion in Toddlers, Children and Adults to view it on YouTube and check out the full 20-minute interview to see more of the exercises here.

A few notes about concussion symptoms in toddlers and young children that differ from adults:
  • Babies and toddlers: sleep variance, either more or less, and uncontrollable crying, especially when head is moved
  • Toddlers and older children:
  • loss of interest in what they usually love to do
  • drowsiness
  • looking like they’re daydreaming
Long-term post-concussive symptoms are similar to many of the short-term effects, but also include:
  • mood swings
  • floaters in your vision
  • bad balance
  • noise and light sensitivity
  • amnesia
  • ringing in the ears
  • disorders of taste and smell
  • depression and other psychological disruptions
  • “vertical heterophoria” – when on pupil drifts off center, causing double vision, motion sickness, nausea and eye strain
  •  sleep issues, mood dysregulation, irritability, sensitivity to screens, challenges being around a lot of sensory stimulation. “Everything is in a heightened state of overload…the nervous system is in an inflammatory cascade.”
  • seizures

Concussion Recovery Strategies: What do you do after a Concussion?

how to recover from a concussion

According to Healthline.com, one of the top search results, “The only treatment for a concussion is rest,” which is a pretty grim prescription. The CDC echoes that sentiment, recommending resting body and mind, then getting back to normal activity slowly once symptoms subside, cutting back if symptoms flare.

Thankfully alternative medicine (which is getting more and more mainstream) has discovered that there are many ways to treat and heal from a concussion. Again, I’ll remind you that I’m not a doctor, but I’ve done a lot of research, spoken with experts, and have the personal experience of using functional neurology to help my own son heal his brain.

I’ll speak about “what we did” to recover after a concussion in my preschooler. Not medical advice, of course, just our story.

First, our big mistake that I learned emphatically later from multiple people: NO SCREENS after a concussion! 

All the big sites that one finds in a search either miss or gloss over this with the exception of Healthline, which accurately describes screens as overstimulating and exciting to the brain. I even heard of a man who had brain surgery (not a concussion obviously but related, brain recovery) and was banned from looking at any sort of screen for months.

The research is clear that the lights and motion from screens definitely activates our brains, and not in a healthy way. When seeking to recover from a concussion or brain injury, both the body and mind need a rest (which means that even puzzles or reading might be off limits for older kids and adults!).

The doctor on call said it was of vital importance to protect the head from bumps in the first few days and week afterward. He prescribed no trampoline jumping at all for 3 days.

For our little guy, we were very careful about physical activity on day one after the incident, requiring only “sitting games.” We instructed all the kids: no running around, no sword fighting, wrestling, tickle games, etc. We were not as careful as we should have been on day two because of that pool party, but we made it a point to keep him off the playground at school for a number of days. Although we had just gotten a backyard trampoline a few weeks before and it was a hot commodity, we didn’t let him on the tramp with another child for at least a week.

I’m sure the kind doctor would like me to share that trampolines and bikes are the most common causes of kids’ head injuries; he says kids should always and only go solo on a trampoline. Have we followed that rule? No…because childhood is, after all, meant to be lived, and to be social. I don’t want any more concussions and I believe they are serious, more than we may know, but we decided that it’s an acceptable risk to have our children play together, and we do remind them to be cautious. Accidents will always happen, and we’re not going to bubble wrap our kids or helicopter parent them.

While the trampoline and outdoor play was off the list the first few days, we did a loooot of perler beads, which Gabe has a fascination with and a superhuman focus for his age. I’ve never been so grateful for a messy, pointless craft! For some kids, even the focus required for this may be too much, but I would think most crafty stuff would be ok. One family I know went for a lot of drives in the country after their tween had a concussion, because not being able to read or be on screens doesn’t leave a lot of restful activities where a child can keep their bodies still!

boy playing with beads

Bright light and sounds may also irritate, so tread carefully with music choices if that’s a good option for “stillness” otherwise. Depending on the severity of your child’s concussion, s/he may need a day or more in a dark, quiet room just to get rid of the headaches and sensory sensitivity. “Everything is in a heightened state of overload…the nervous system is in an inflammatory cascade,” says Dan Engle, MD, author of The Concussion Repair Manual, which is why reducing sensory input is so vital after a concussion.

Which brings me back to what I think may be the most important part of this post: no screens for at least several days after a concussion or until symptoms subside. Second most important: Drastically limit physical activity while recovering.

Most people know rule number 2, which often, like it did with us, encourages them to break rule number 1 unknowingly. We have to talk more about that one!

Here’s a story from a reader to really drive that point home:

My son received his 1st concussion this past April 2018. We learned more than we ever thought possible. My husband is a high school coach and knew the basics: if you have a headache, you don’t play until cleared by a doctor.

 

So after 4 days at home in the dark, my son, with doctor’s permission, returned to his 5th grade class for a half day. Thank goodness our doctor had attended an updated concussion conference a month prior to this.

We learned there is a ‘return to learning’ & a ‘return to play’ protocol for concussions.

The first half day back was horrible. We informed his teachers and nurse of his concussion and the symptoms to watch out for and asked them to please call ASAP if a headache starts. His teacher put him on a computer for a 2-hour state standardized MAPS test (Had to get it finished up and sent in to the state). At this time, my son had not been on any type of electronics whatsoever.

Of course he had a pounding headache, and back we go for two more days of a dark room. BUT we weren’t made aware of his headache until an hour after it started when we picked him up for his half day. Went back to school again for half days, only after several conversations with teachers, principal, nurse and school superintendent. We received a phone call within 10 minutes of a headache this time.

When I asked my son, “What do you think caused the headache today?” he said they were doing mental math. Well… Yep… that will do it.

Long story short: we became extremely & overwhelmingly educated on concussions. We got to pass along our knowledge a few times and repeatedly. We learned that moving forward then taking a step backwards is standard and not to be alarmed.

Kids and their parents can be mean and disrespectful during this. My son was asked several times, “Why can’t you do PE, play at recess, run with me? You just got a bump on the head. Why don’t you just get a CAT scan?”

It’s a process, but you know your child and you are their best advocate. Stay strong as this too shall pass. My son is fully functioning again: playing in two baseball leagues, basketball camp & limited Xbox time.

— I have permission to share this story anonymously – when I asked, the mom said, “Yes, please include any part of our story. The more people who know it’s not just a bump on the head, the better, kids and parents alike.”

A real gem is inside that story – learning and cognition is affected and is hard work for the brain. After a concussion, many kids should start with half days of school until it’s found that they are performing and feeling well.

We did some other brain supportive and natural health techniques as well:

Homeopathics for Concussion Recovery

  • We used homeopathic arnica montana 30c immediately when he was tired, every 15 minutes as we could when we wasn’t sleeping.
  • We added belladonna the next day because of the headache. I learned that one from Joette Calabrese and kind of wish I had done that the first night but I was uncertain. Note that homeopathics are used based on the kind of headache, so throbbing and feeling like “Boom, boom,” might be belladonna, but pain behind the eyes or feeling like the head is going to explode are two different remedies.
  • Per a holistic MD’s recommendation, I ordered Natrum sulphuricum 30X and Gabe took that and arnica alternating 3-4x / day for the first full week.

Essential Oils for Concussion Recovery

Plant Therapy diffuser in little boys' room
  • I also diffused Frankincense (KidSafe) and cypress essential oils right away all night as recommended in an EO book I have.
  • I added lavender the next day to help him relax, hopefully. This was in my Plant Therapy diffuser, 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off.

Food and Supplements for Concussion Recovery and Brain Health

As I mentioned, I dove into the Broken Brain episode on concussion and TBIs and pulled out a lot of information, like the fact that stress management is extremely important, and treating pain is important because that could drive cortisol levels up. Watch for neck pain too. There were tons of practical nutrition tips too, including:

  • Decreasing inflammation in the diet is key – no fried foods, breaded foods, no trans fats. Lower starches and breads.
  • Should stay gluten-free, even if a person doesn’t have antibodies to gluten, because some of the molecules in gluten could create inflammation in the brain if the blood-brain barrier is compromised. Dairy-free too! 8-10 weeks is the critical period to do all the things. We did keep him off gluten and dairy for at least a few weeks. 
wild Alaskan salmon dinner
  • Omega 3 fats are very important, 1 tsp-1 Tbs. 2x/day of liquid fish oil. We had a lemon-flavored oil on hand that Gabe didn’t mind taking, although later Dr. Hanks, a functional neurologist we worked with, said we probably shouldn’t have added much nutritionally or supplementary because of the idea of giving brain and body a break. Nothing new or novel. After a few weeks, fish oil is great. Dr. Michael Lewis, author of When Brains Collide, has a few other kid-friendly recommendations: Coromega squeeze packets (if the child won’t swallow capsules or liquid), Wiley’s Finest mini caps (which my 6yo could proudly swallow) or liquid, Pure Encapsulations O.N.E. Omega (for adults, note higher dosage per capsule as you’re comparing pricing) or liquid, and he also recommends Nordic Naturals, the brand we had in liquid form. Here are the capsules for adults.
  • How much fish oil? Dr. Dan Engle in the Superhuman Brain masterclass used Dr. Michael Lewis’s research to recommend adding 12-16g of fish oil (that’s really high!) right away, then active treatment for post-concussive symptom is 6-9g until symptoms resolve and maintenance is 3-5g.
  • The biochemical in wild blueberries helps heal the brain (and prevent dementia). It’s the purple in it, anthocyanins, 4-10x more than domestic blueberries. The Broken Brain series recommended 1/2 cup to a cup per day, maybe in 2 servings. Try to eat with protein to avoid sugar rush, like a protein smoothie (but not dairy), maybe nuts or something. These are in the frozen section at Costco!! We gave Gabe a whole bowl of them for a few days after the incident, although again, Dr. Hanks says wait on attempting any sort of nutritional changes, particularly carbs. (Oops. We learn so much after the fact, which is why I feel blessed by this platform – every time something happens in our family’s health, I think, “At least so many others can learn from this!!!”)
Coconut flour pancakes with blueberries

Wild blueberries with grain-free high protein pancakes…skip the syrup post concussion! 

  • Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables, high color veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale). We made kale chips!
  • Curcumin (a certain form that can pass through the brain) to reduce inflammation – we didn’t really do much with this tip other than use more turmeric than usual for a while.
  • Dr. Hanks explained that while recovering from a concussion, fasting is great for anyone, even kids, even if it’s just a 12 hour break from eating (while sleeping counts!). i.e. if not hungry, don’t push food. If he wants to eat, let him eat.
  • What to eat for brain healing? High protein, high fat, low carbohydrates to feed the brain what it needs. This is where not doing all those wild blueberries right away comes in because fruit is still sugar.
  • My summary of what Dr. Hanks tried to explain to me on the phone: We want to keep too many neurons from firing, prevent overdrive of metabolic processing. (If someone has a tremor for example, over metabolic processing could make the tremor permanent.) All fruit and processed grains are out. Don’t give a boatload of vitamins, supplements. The fish oil should be ok because it’s a fat but we could even hold off on that. If you start to see symptoms come back, then pull back. We don’t want to spike blood sugars and crash. When someone runs out of sugar they should just get hungry, not crash. When the brain gets injured, we don’t want to increase metabolic process any more than usual. It’s not about zero grains, so oatmeal is ok because of all the fiber; it’s about glycemic load. Certainly no bananas, but apples with the skins are a lower load…rather than count fibers and learn about glycemic load when someone just got knocked on the head though, it’s better to keep ALL fruits away right at first, but if you know how, you can use the glycemic index as a guide. Nuts are pretty neutral, equal carbs and equal protein.
  • The Broken Brain series concurred that some patients with severe brain injuries respond well to a ketogenic diet with lots of vegetables, and Dr. Dan Engle also recommended to avoid sugar and high carb foods after a brain injury and especially alcohol.
  • Both JJ Virgin and Dr. Engle recommend CBD oil, ideally with a little bit of THC in a 12:1 or 20:1 ratio. It helps brain stability and reduces inflammation. We did not do this with our 3-year-old!
  • Other supplements we didn’t know about include: liposomal glutathione or liquid (up to 1200 mg for the first 3-7 days, start low and work up, according to Engle), CoQ10 (available as gummies too), green tea or matcha powder, and creatine, up to 5g/day. To help sleep, Engle recommends magnesium. Magnesium glycinate also supports digestion and can cross the blood-brain barrier, so it’s a good one to look for, and magnesium threonate is possibly even better as it crosses the blood-brain barrier more readily, 800-2400mg/day. Here is the same brand I use (although I haven’t tried threonate yet), another option, and a powder “punch” to drink.
  • Other “big” treatments that we didn’t consider but that were highlighted in the Broken Brain episode include hyperbaric oxygen (ihealthnow.org – seeking to decrease inflammation, improve mitochondrial function), transmagnetic stimulation, and neuro feedback and the Superhuman Brain Masterclass recommended flotation therapy (6-10 in a month at first, than 1-2 per month as maintenance).

When I first shared in an email about Gabe’s concussion, readers were so supportive and more than one shared their own stories. In fact, another reader gave me permission to share her story:

I was in a truck wreck 3 years ago where I was T-boned by a van which caused my truck to then spin into a light pole on the opposite side.

 

Double whammy! My head didn’t hit anything but the sporadic force caused a concussion (of course there’s a medical terminology but I can’t remember). It was a long, tough year and I then developed debilitating migraines, which when you homestead and homeschool, is a whole new ballgame, to say the least.

My greatest treatment was:

  1. Finding an osteopath that specialized in cranial-sacral work. Although 99% of his work was just cranial (cradling my head for 2 hours first treatment) it had whole-body effects. As a side note, there are osteopaths that treat differently and I had to find one that worked for me and my symptoms and not make things worse which I experienced.
  2. CBD oil! Which not only helped with migraines but also a newly developed PTSD for driving!! WOW! That PTSD is real and scary. There were various stages of how the CBD helped- basically very minimal, to maintaining a migraine (not progressing,) to zero migraines to date. 🙂
  3. Sticking with my Weston A Price lifestyle of HIGH fat, fresh milk, and ferments and pate.
  4. Rest of course when I could.
  5. I worked my brain when it felt right- I did cross-word puzzles, word-finding puzzles, etc.
  6. Lymph massage; infrared sauna and coffee enemas; homeopathy and loads of Vitamin C and magnesium.

It was a tough year for memory – I would move things and have ZERO recollection of doing so and then would have to look for that item for days until found. I’m sure there were other natural treatments that I did but unfortunately, I don’t remember.

So is there real healing to be had after a concussion, to prevent long-term effects and get one’s brain back to normal, so it’s not so susceptible to future hits? I really do think so…

What is the Best way to Heal from a Concussion?

natural ways to calm the brain after a concussion

In the days and up to maybe 2 weeks after a concussive incident, get a lot of rest, try the strategies above, and see how your brain naturally heals. After about 2 weeks, if you still have symptoms, obviously you need more healing. Even if you don’t, like Gabe didn’t that we noticed, you can have someone watch your eye movements while tracking an object to see if they are smooth or have hitches or stutters of a sort.

If you do, you need more help to recover and heal!

People always want to know about concussion recovery time: How long will it take to recover from a concussion? How long are you out of work or school from a concussion?

As it turns out, your age will have a lot to do with it, as will your personal toxic load on your health.

Dr. Engle said that brain injuries don’t always react in ways that make sense – someone can have what seems like a minor trauma and their symptoms end up very severe, while someone else can go through a huge concussion and seem to recover quite quickly. If person #1 has serious hormone dysfunction already, or metal toxicity, high stress, leaky gut ETC., the bump on the head can be the “last straw” so to speak and sets off a cascade of effects.

This makes me wonder about my little guy – was his small bump more serious simply because of the bad luck combo of cement and the side of his head, or does he have some other sort of health issue making him less resilient? Luckily, his age really helps him because young children are so neuroplastic that they heal much more quickly. (Think of how fast your little ones get over a tantrum or forget that they were fighting with a sibling – much faster than I get over emotional slights! That’s their neuroplasticity at work.)

boy doing brain exercises

It only took 3 appointments with Dr. Hanks until we felt comfortable with stopping therapy (and my daughter ended up with 5+ to heal her motion sickness, but it worked so it was worth it!).

Dr. Hanks explained that most doctors don’t know what to do to help brain recover. Medication won’t do anything (it’s needed for massive head injuries but not for regular concussions). The brain rehab he can do is a lot more precise, whereas medications are non-specific/global, just hit the whole thing, not necessarily what you hurt.

Physical therapy may or may not help, because sometimes the brain can’t handle the sensory stimulation.

If you or someone you love has had a concussion, I’d strongly urge you to look for a functional neurologist in your area. When all you get from conventional medicine is, “Rest, and there’s nothing else we can do,” you should DO something! Dr. Hanks clearly helped Gabe smooth out his eye motions and balance.

We had to do exercises multiple times a day, because brain rehab takes work! You can’t become Mozart by playing piano one hour per week or a superstar athlete with a practice here and there. Besides the exercises a trained practitioner can give you and the steps in Dr. Titus Chiu’s book Brain Save! you can also try meditation to help calm down the amygdala, the fight or flight response center of the brain, and look for ways to increase synaptic connections in the brain, such as brain building apps (search for the word “Stroop” for some good ones).

Related: HeartMath Review

Making all this even harder, especially for adults and older children, is that people don’t understand the severity of effects of a concussion. With more severe TBIs, you can tell that something has happened – maybe someone’s face changes, or they’re in a wheelchair or something. When a head injury is mild and externally unnoticeable, society doesn’t know how to handle that.

Like my reader’s story above about her 5th grader, others may tend to think people are lazy because they want to be in the dark or they need extra sleep. Teachers may not understand that a lot of kids can’t go back to school because they can’t read/think.

Your brain is working so hard to recover from the injury that it’s a competing request to do a lot of mental work. (Ever had a terrible fever? You can’t even read a book sometimes because you’re so foggy. It’s like that.) Dr. Hanks explained: If your brain is trying to keep you upright and blood is shunting to neurons trying to keep you upright, you won’t think straight because you won’t have blood for the neurons for thinking. This can last for years if never rehabilitated.

But please take solace in the fact that rehabilitation and healing IS possible if you know where to look.

Over and over, no matter what source you read, you’ll hear this:

The greatest danger to the brain is multiple concussions, piling one on top of the other.

So the most important way to heal from a concussion is to (a) take extra precaution that you don’t get one again, even a more minor bump, and (b) be sure to actually do some therapy to strengthen your brain and help it heal, not just compensate, or else you’ll be more susceptible to concussions (and they’ll all be like “multiple concussions”) your whole life. You CAN get back to your baseline though! AND you can build a stronger brain NOW to make it easier to recover from any concussions that may be in your future, plus be more resistant to a bump becoming serious. These 10 tips will help anyone strengthen their brains!

Have you ever had a concussion or wondered if you did? Please share this info far and wide so people can have hope and healing after a head injury, no matter how small!

I can almost guarantee you’ll hear of someone getting a concussion in the next 3-6 months, and I hope you’ll remember to look up this post for them for a ton of information. 🙂

Sources:

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3 thoughts on “The Best Way to Heal from a Concussion: How to Start Recovery Immediately After a Bump on the Head!”

  1. My college age daughter experienced 2 concussions within a 30 day period (during the same class in school!) this fall.
    It’s been 7 weeks since the last one and innumerable appointments with doctors, including a NeuroOptometrist, and physical therapists. We just found out that she won’t be able to return to college for the next semester. Although she is physically getting better, she still has no cognitive stamina and her vision (she hit the occipital lobe of her brain both times) is still very messed up. Vision therapy is slowly making progress but could take 9 months.
    My advice for others on their second concussion would be to find a concussion specialist as soon as possible! Having a great team of people working together to meet the needs of the affected person has been invaluable!!
    There are only two things they have recommended that I didn’t see mentioned (and I could have missed it). One was a hat with a brim (baseball cap, fedora, etc) to help control light input (and overload). This has been extremely helpful in resting her eyes and keeping brain/eye fatigue down. The other thing was blue light blocking glasses. Not just for screen time (which is still grossly restricted!) but for all public situations at this time of year due to the holiday lights/signs, etc. I would never have thought of that but it has made even driving around town more tolerable for her.
    Take it seriously and don’t rush the recovery process!! Better to lose a few weeks than to have permanent damage!
    And BTW, the curcumin has been a wonderful way to get off of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cycle and still help immensely with pain and inflammation. It’s a little expensive but so very worth it!!

    1. OH my goodness, how frightening, Carmen! I hope your daughter is continuing to improve. Great tips for the visual guidelines, thank you!! Do you have a functional neurologist nearby? What Dr. Hanks does is so different than anything else I’ve seen in traditional circles…

      Best, Katie

  2. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    I got a concussion in a car accident in 2015. My head didn’t hit anything; my brain hit the inside of my skull. Some details about my symptoms and how the ER failed to diagnose concussion are in this article.

    Here in Pittsburgh, we have the UPMC concussion treatment program, which uses the latest research–except that I don’t recall any nutritional advice other than “taking fish oil may help.” (I noticed for myself that I got more confused after eating fried food or large amounts of white flour.) There were two main things about this treatment that were especially helpful for me:

    1. ImPACT computerized assessment. I did this at every visit. As described in my link above, it’s what convinced me that I did have a concussion, even before I saw the doctor: One of the tasks was something I had not tried to do since the accident, so I didn’t know it would be so horrifyingly difficult–normally it would be a fun, mildly challenging puzzle, so when I couldn’t do it at all and trying to do it made me feel weak and horrible, I knew there was something very wrong! Taking the same test over and over helped me (as well as the doctor) see how I was improving and where I still needed help.

    2. Vestibular therapy. This is a way of relearning the skills you need for balance and moving around safely but also for keeping track of where you are and where you put things, and for enduring flashing lights and bad noises without getting a headache. I had been sensitive to flashing lights for years (migraine trigger) before the concussion, and in just a few months they were able to make me much less vulnerable! There were exercises similar to what you did with the neurologist, and also they gave me a DISCO BALL to take home; I had to lie still in a dark room watching the whirling colored lights for increasingly longer periods of time. (I put on some music, and my children were thrilled.) It sounds ridiculous, but it really helped a lot.

    I was given instructions about rest a little different from what you’ve heard. I was supposed to get plenty of sleep at night but maintain a regular schedule with NO NAPS. I was placed on partial disability so that I only went to work 20 hours a week (and later, when a bunch of stressors came up in my life, the doctor took me completely off work for 4 weeks) and I was supposed to take 10 minutes away from the screen every hour to gaze into the distance, and to minimize screen time that wasn’t for my job. But I was NOT advised to avoid thinking! My job is data management, and I did tons of mental math and complex organizing; it didn’t seem to be a problem and actually was easier for me than many other tasks of daily life; this may have to do with what part of the brain was injured. I also was NOT told not to move around, just to avoid sudden head movements and possibility of impact. They said walking was good for me: Walk instead of drive when possible, and walks in nature are particularly healing.

    I did not take the last part of that advice until much later. I walked a lot in my daily life but mostly in the urban neighborhoods where I live and work. Taking my kid to the park was about the closest to nature I got. But when I lost my job a year after the concussion, I decided to take a daily nature walk now that I had time. I think it really helped with my ongoing recovery.

    Thanks for writing this series! This is a really important topic, and public opinion of concussions tends to be very misinformed.

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