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How Rehabilitation for Concussion Patients Works

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If you or someone you know has a concussion, it’s important to understand the intricacies of this condition to be aware of the best ways to recover. This form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have long-term repercussions if left untreated, so it’s essential to understand the symptoms and recovery process associated with concussions.

The rehabilitation process typically involves addressing the direct symptoms of a concussion, like problems with the connection between your eyes and brain. As vision problems are common after a concussion, an eye care or medical professional may recommend balance exercises, vision therapy, rehabilitation, and  counseling to encourage healing.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you believe you or a loved one have an undiagnosed concussion.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is jolted or twisted in the skull. Whether this is caused by a blow to the head, a jolt, a fall, or some other form of trauma, a concussion occurs when the brain is forced to move rapidly inside the skull due to outside force. 

This commonly occurs in sports, vehicle accidents, and falls, and leads to the disruption of normal brain function. This can lead to a variety of symptoms that vary in severity and duration depending on the damage.

What Are the Symptoms of a Concussion?

Concussions have a range of symptoms that vary on a case-by-case basis, but the effects they have on your brain can lead to many physical and cognitive problems that impact your overall well-being. The typical physical symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Light and visual sensitivity
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Double vision
  • Issues with depth perception
  • Difficulty fixating on or switching between focusing on objects
  • Problems with the attention span

These are typically caused due to issues with the eyes and brain communicating while the brain is recovering from a concussion. Many of these symptoms are caused by the disruption of brain tissue used to process visual information.

How Are Concussions Treated?

When it comes to treating a concussion, there are several approaches used to promote healing. It may help to:

  • Avoid bright lights
  • Reduce screen time
  • Avoid visually or mentally demanding tasks

By doing this, you can build a strong base for your brain to begin the recovery process. After the first few days, you can begin to reintroduce increased mental stimulation and physical activity. By taking it safely and slowly, you can focus on giving yourself the best chance at a safe and smooth recovery. 

Vision Therapy for Concussions

Vision therapy, balance training, and cognitive exercises are commonly recommended approaches to treat a concussion due to their ability to help reduce the severity of some of the symptoms.

Vision therapy can help address possible vision problems that may be developing. It’s common to experience light sensitivity as well as “brain fog,” which can be related to a reduced visual attention span. Vision therapy employs specific exercises designed to improve your visual processing speed, visuo-spatial memory, eye coordination, tracking, and ability to focus your eyes.

Vision therapy aims to promote coordination between your eyes and brain, which is an essential skill needed for daily life. By working on training certain visual skills, this form of therapy may help you recover from a concussion. 

Some skills that can be trained include:

  • Viso-spatial memory—recognizing your environment and keeping track of moving objects
  • Binocular vision—your eyes working together in a coordinated way
  • Visual attention span—your ability to concentrate on only present visual information

Steps to Recovery

Concussion rehabilitation is a gradual process that should be tailored to each person’s needs, with a focus on restoring cognitive and physical functions. 

Rehabilitation programs typically use an approach that gradually reintroduces physical and mental activities while monitoring how your brain and eyes respond. This encourages a safe and efficient recovery process.

Step 1: Slow Down 

One of the first things to do after being diagnosed with a concussion is to slow down your daily routine. Try to avoid strenuous physical activity or visually demanding tasks where possible to give your brain time to begin recovering. 

During this period, it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional to determine how extensive the damage is. This also gives them the opportunity to check if there are any other underlying conditions that may have been caused by the event that caused the concussion.

Step 2: Starting Therapy & Reintroducing Activity 

After this initial period has passed, you may begin treatment, such as vision therapy. 

During this period, your doctor can help you incorporate gentle physical activity into your life. If vision therapy is part of your recovery process, a functional optometrist can also help you train the connection between your eyes and brain to help relieve your visual symptoms.

Rehabilitation also prioritizes education and guidance to promote recovery so you and your family can know what to expect. You and your family or caregivers will get information about recovery expectations, symptom management, and ways to get appropriate support if needed. 

Step 3: Returning to Normal

After some time, things will begin returning to normal. It’s important to continue working with your functional optometrist and healthcare professionals so they can monitor your improvements and provide suggestions to help improve the recovery process.

Because a concussion is a brain injury, it can take some time before you’re back to your full function. However, you can make adjustments to accommodate your unique situation, like:

  • Working for shorter periods of time
  • Taking breaks as needed
  • Managing your energy levels so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed
  • Avoiding driving, as your reflexes may be slower than usual

It’s important to consult your doctor and functional optometrist when returning back to your daily routine so they can determine whether or not you’re fully recovered.

An optometrist smiling and conducting an eye exam on a child using a device that tests his vision

Where to Get Help for a Concussion

If you suspect that you or a loved one have a concussion, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. A medical professional or functional optometrist experienced with concussions can evaluate your condition, check your symptoms, and recommend a treatment plan to help you recover quickly.By seeking the advice of a professional, you can begin the recovery process sooner rather than later, and know what to expect during your concussion rehabilitation. Understanding concussions and the impact they can have on your life is essential, and our team at Belle Vue Specialty Eye Care understands that. If you or a loved one are interested in vision therapy, schedule an appointment with us today.

Written by Megan Lott

Dr. Megan Sumrall Lott is a functional optometrist who practices in Hattiesburg, MS. She is a 2006 graduate of Southern College of Optometry. She began practicing optometry by providing primary eyecare at Lexington Eye Care in Lexington, MS. After providing vision therapy to her 9 month old son to correct an eye turn, Dr. Lott realized she had found her passion in functional optometry.
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