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A mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a sudden jolt to your head that causes a temporary change in the way your brain works. It could be caused by a blow to your head, a blast, or a sudden and severe movement of your head that bounces your brain inside your skull. Falls, fights, sports, and car accidents also can cause TBIs.
Having a mild TBI can change the way you feel, act, move, and think. Even though you may look fine, a mild TBI can have a big impact on many areas of your life. A mild TBI can cause headaches, fatigue, memory problems, mood swings, and inability to focus your thoughts.
Treatment for mild TBI may be different, depending on symptoms and other unrelated medical issues; therefore, no 2 TBIs are the same. You may need to work with a TBI team — a group of health care providers who help people recover from TBI. For example, you might work with a physical therapist to help with your balance and movement problems. Or you might work with an occupational therapist to help you function better at home and at work. Other medical experts may help you with emotional and thinking problems.
In some cases, your doctor may use medications to relieve symptoms while you recover. These may include pain relievers, antidepressants, antianxiety medications, sleep aids, and muscle relaxants. Although medications can help, they are not a main part of treatment. You should not take any medications unless discussed and approved by your health care provider. Things that you can do for yourself are usually as important as the medications you are prescribed. This part of your treatment is called self-management.
Most people with mild TBI recover completely, but it may take weeks or months. For some people, symptoms may continue for years. Because of this, self-management may continue long after you leave the hospital. Many lifestyle changes that help your brain recover are good habits that you should keep up even after you have recovered. Here are some tips:
Learn as much as you can about TBI. Share what you learn with friends and family.
Let your health care team know about all your symptoms.
Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.
Get plenty of sleep.
Don’t overexert yourself mentally or physically.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
Don’t use caffeine or energy drinks as a way to make you feel less tired.
Avoid activities that could cause another jolt to your head. Ask your health care provider what types of activities are safe.
Avoid mental stress. Learn some relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
Keep a pad and pencil handy. Write things down if you are having trouble concentrating or remembering.
Let your health care provider know if your symptoms are getting worse. And look out for other important mental symptoms. These include memory loss, having a hard time thinking clearly, having trouble controlling your emotions, and depression. Also be sure to report physical symptoms such as worsening headaches, loss of balance, changes in vision, seizures, and vomiting.
Recovery from a mild TBI takes time. Be patient and give your brain time to heal. Be sure to rely on your support system, which includes friends and family members who understand what you are going through. You might also want to join a support group and share your feelings with others who have had a TBI.