How long will it take me to recover from a concussion?
Recovery looks different for everyone after sustaining a brain injury. In the days and weeks after your concussion, you may ask yourself, your doctor, and Google, how long will it take me to recover? The simple answer is: It varies.
- A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is also referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
- The term “mild” refers to the severity of the trauma, not the consequences.
- It is common for MRI or CT scans to come back as “normal.” This does not mean there is no injury.
- Symptoms are not always present right after the injury. They can become apparent hours or even days after the injury.
- The recovery period for each person is different, and it is important to create the best possible environment to heal.
- People who try to “tough it out” only prolong recovery times.
- The recovery process is uneven. You can have a day where you feel almost 100% better, then have a day where you feel like you did right after the injury.
Common symptoms that can occur include:
- Physical — Headache, Nausea/Vomiting, Tinnitus (ringing in ears), Blurred Vision, Sensitivity to Light
- Behavioral — Irritability, Depression/Anxiety, Impulsivity, Lack of Initiation, Impaired Awareness
- Cognitive — Attention, Word Finding, and Memory Problems, Difficulty Filtering Noise, Trouble Focusing
- Sleep/Rest — Drowsiness, Excessive Sleep, Insomnia, Altered Sleep Patterns
The most common symptoms following a concussion are headaches, and “cognitive delay,” when the brain cannot process information as efficiently as it did before the injury. The person feels like they can’t “keep up” and it is harder to maintain attention. It can feel like being in a fog all the time. This requires the person to spend more cognitive energy to complete tasks that were simple before the injury.
Towards the end of the day, a person can feel exhausted physically and cognitively and may become more irritable and more easily frustrated. Other symptoms, like headache, may also appear or worsen.
As a person starts to feel better, they may try to get as much done as possible when having a good day. A common consequence of that approach is the person will “hit the wall” towards the end of the day, and for the next couple of days they will feel worse.
It is important to follow a gradual increase in activity levels when recovering from an injury. Most people will recover from a mild brain injury, and the recovery process is usually smoother when you listen to your body and give the brain time to heal.
Some things become more important during recovery:
- Get enough sleep
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Eat healthy
- Take breaks
- Do not drink alcohol while recovering from a brain injury
- If you exercise, do so very lightly initially
The timetable for recovery varies. Younger children and older adults tend to take longer to recover. People who try to rush things and don’t manage their symptoms tend to take longer to recover.
If you are having symptoms that are not resolving or are getting worse, you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor.
For more information about concussion, visit BIAA’s mTBI/Concussion section.