Brain injury is treatable and recovery is possible. Learn how to get help.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of TBI is the first step. Your health care provider, whether in the military, at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility or in civilian life, will get you on the path to recovery.

Myth
There are limited treatment options for concussions and TBI.
Fact
Through innovative treatment and your military or civilian health care providers, recovery from brain injury is more attainable than ever before.
 

Concussion

Treatment for someone with a concussion typically includes rest and, if necessary, the short-term use of over-the-counter pain relievers to cope with headaches. Those recovering from a concussion require careful monitoring for any new symptoms or for symptoms that worsen.

At first, it’s best to rest — both your body and your mind. Avoid physical activity, such as sports and exercise. Be aware of how you feel when doing something that requires you to concentrate, such as texting, watching television, reading and using the Internet. If these activities trigger symptoms, it’s time to take a break.

After treatment, most people return to their routines within days or weeks, under a doctor’s supervision.

Moderate to Severe Injury

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury requires immediate medical attention and management, so that fractures or other complications, such as bleeding and swelling, don’t compound the primary injury. Maintaining blood pressure and adequate levels of oxygen are the main concerns for people with a moderate to severe TBI.

Medications

Depending on the severity of the injury, people who have experienced a TBI may be prescribed medication to control inflammation or seizures. In more serious cases, patients might be put in medically induced comas as doctors work to limit pressure on the brain.

Surgery

A surgeon may perform emergency procedures to repair skull fractures or to prevent secondary damage to the brain. Operations may also be needed to stop bleeding, remove blood clots or relieve pressure caused by accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid or swelling brain tissue.

 
 

Rehabilitation

Most people with a significant brain injury will require some form of rehabilitation, such as occupational, physical or speech therapy. Therapy usually begins in the hospital and transitions to either an inpatient rehabilitation facility or an outpatient program, depending on the severity of the injury and resulting physical, cognitive or speech concerns.

A variety of specialists may work together to help the patient relearn basic skills, such as walking, talking and self-care.

  • A physiatrist is a physician who manages the entire rehabilitation — from prescriptions for medications to referrals to additional specialists and counseling support.
  • A physical therapist helps patients recover mobility and balance.
  • An occupational therapist helps patients learn or improve how they perform everyday activities.
  • A speech and language pathologist helps with communication skills.
  • A neuropsychologist helps people cope with cognitive impairment and may offer psychological support.

Caregiving

Taking care of a loved one with TBI (whether mild, moderate or severe) can feel overwhelming, especially if the injured person requires full-time attention. It’s important to build a support network of family, friends, providers and your military community — not just for the person with the TBI, but also for yourself.

Caregivers should consider using these coping strategies:

  • Avoid compassion fatigue by taking time for yourself. (For more information, check out this DCoE blog post).
  • Seek counseling to work through feelings of anxiety or depression (or both).
  • Join a caregiver support group.
  • Keep a regular schedule or routine that includes breaks for yourself.
  • Be assertive about getting the support and help you need.
  • Educate yourself about available resources.
  • Consult an experienced caregiver or trusted resource.
  • Be aware of potential changing roles and responsibilities within your family.

Above all else, be kind to yourself. Give yourself credit for all that you do.