If you’ve suffered a concussion, you know how disruptive it can be to your daily routine. This is especially true if you used to exercise frequently, as you may have been told not to do heavy physical activity during your recovery. Recommendations for post-concussion exercise have been changing rapidly over the past few years, and it can be difficult to navigate best practices.
At NeuroHealth Arlington, we have years of experience helping patients recover from head injuries, and we want to help you get back to your daily routine. In this article, we provide some answers to common questions about exercising after concussions. These answers reflect current best practices, and hopefully, they can help you get back to the gym or track safely.
Exercising With A Concussion
If you’ve recently suffered a concussion, you may have been told to avoid physical exercise until you’re fully recovered. While this may be a good idea in some cases, recommendations have been changing rapidly in recent years. Sometimes concussion symptoms can persist long after the initial injury, making it difficult to return to healthy habits. When this happens, it’s important to return to exercise, although it should be done slowly and with the advice of a doctor.
Currently, most physicians recommend that concussion patients avoid prolonged periods of rest and return to exercise relatively soon after injury. This could be as soon as three to five days after the concussion. While exercise is beneficial, it’s also vital to start with light physical activity. If you want to start exercising, make sure that you monitor your symptoms and report them to your physician if they become severe.
Even if you haven’t been advised against exercise, physical activity may be challenging after suffering a head injury. It may induce nausea, headaches, extreme fatigue, head pain, and confusion, among other symptoms. Because of this, it’s important to consult with a medical professional before starting exercise and advise them of any adverse reactions you have.
When Is It Safe To Exercise After A Concussion?
Your rest period will depend on the specific details of your head injury. For example, if you’ve suffered a serious concussion, including neck injuries, you may have to wait longer to exercise than if you suffered only a mild injury. In all cases, it’s important to consult with your doctor and ask them when you can return to physical activity. Although exercise is vital, a rest period of at least three days is generally recommended.
Are There Benefits To Exercising With A Concussion?
Over the years, it has become apparent that there are many benefits to exercising after a concussion. One of the most important effects of exercise as regards concussions is increased blood flow. When recovering from head injuries, blood flow to the brain is vital, as it keeps the brain oxygenated, encouraging cell regeneration and neuroplasticity. In many cases, this can help reduce post-concussion symptoms sooner, improve sleep, and accelerate recovery.
Regular exercise also has a wide range of extra benefits that can help patients recover more effectively. First, regular activity can reduce anxiety and improve mental health during recovery. It can also give patients a greater sense of normalcy and can help stave off other physical health issues that may arise from a lack of activity. If patients are in school or need to return to work, regular exercise can improve brain function and performance.
Avoiding exercise can lead to some adverse health outcomes. Long periods of rest can lead to depression and anxiety, as well as fatigue. A decrease in blood flow can also prevent your brain from taking the steps it needs to heal itself, leading to longer recovery times.
What Exercises Can You Do While Recovering From A Concussion?
When your doctor says you can return to exercise, it’s important to start slow. Light exercise is vital, but it’s wise to avoid anything that might lead to a worsening of your condition. If you have played contact sports in the past, it’s vital to avoid these during your recovery, as you’ll have an increased risk of suffering another head injury. This can be extremely dangerous, so avoid sports like football, rugby, martial arts, and hockey. It’s also important to avoid games like basketball and soccer, since they can also lead to head injuries.
In general, light activity such as walking or jogging is the best option for patients recovering from concussions. These forms of exercise are low impact and don’t require much coordination, which may be challenging after a head injury. While weight lifting can be beneficial, it’s important to wait until you can perform these activities safety without dizziness or extreme fatigue.
Whatever you decide to do, try not to start where you left off before your injury. Start slowly and gradually work back up to your previous activity levels. As always, consult with your doctor and be sure to follow their advice. They’ll have a better understanding of your unique circumstances and can help you get back on your feet.
What About Exercise Intolerance?
Some patients experience a condition known as post-concussion syndrome exercise intolerance. This causes serious discomfort after exercise, including dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and brain fog. This can make exercise very unpleasant for some patients, causing them to avoid it altogether. While it’s a good idea to keep your doctor notified of your condition, it’s important to keep pursuing gentle physical activity. In most cases, avoiding exercise due to negative symptoms can prolong recovery times.
That’s a quick overview of safe exercise practices after suffering a concussion. We hope this makes it easier for you to return to your daily routine and stay healthy. If you want to know more about concussions and their effects, you can review some helpful information on our website. We also have an article covering what foods you should be avoiding if you have a concussion. If you have any further questions about concussion recovery and safe exercise practices, feel free to contact us. Our experienced and friendly staff would love to help you out. Stay safe and we hope to hear from you soon.