Self Care When You Have a Concussion

HOW IT HAPPENED

On Wednesday before Christmas 2019, I slipped on the ice. My feet literally flew out in front of me and I landed flat on my bank. No bended knees, no attempt to catch myself. It happened so quickly I couldn’t even process what was happening until I was on the ground. My head bounced on the asphalt parking lot with a crack and my glasses flew off my face. Ouch!

Fortunately for me, I did not lose consciousness, but it did jar my brain around a bit. But, I was on a mission when I left the church parking lot, so I got up with the help of my husband and headed toward the car to run home for some much needed supplies for my cub scouts. Even though I was slightly disoriented and feeling the adrenaline rush through my body, I made it through the scout meeting with the help of a couple acetaminophen.

On the way home that evening, we decided to stop at the hospital to be sure all was okay. The doctor on call checked my eyes and asked me a couple questions and determined I was fine, just a small concussion. If things got worse, I needed to come back or see my physician.

MY RESEARCH

Because I don’t do well with being dismissed when I am worried about my health, I did my research on head injuries. And what I read was not really practical for me. I work in an office environment and spend most of my day on a computer. The list of things to avoid when you have a concussion:

  • computers
  • fluorescent lights
  • noise
  • activities that jostle your head
  • sports

I proceeded to work that next day and things went fine. In fact, I was surprised that it didn’t hurt much. I never had a bump, but according to the doctor, I was not at risk for bleeding on the brain. I was going to be fine and I didn’t need to worry about any change in self care.

Friday was a completely different story. I woke up with a headache that just wouldn’t stop. By noon I was in tears with a head pain that I’d not felt in years. A quick chat with my primary care provider had me back in the emergency room to get a CT scan to be sure I didn’t have bleeding on the brain. So, five hours of laying on a bed in the ER and finally got my answer — no bleeding on the brain. I had a bad concussion and I needed to take care of myself.

ACETAMINOPHEN VS IBUPROFEN

Acetaminophen was okay to take, but I needed to avoid ibuprofen and naproxen, or things like Aleve. Ibuprofen and naproxen cause rebound headaches. So, it might help the headache go away in the beginning, but it will bring it back with a vengeance. And, if you’ve ever had concussion headaches or migraines, you sure don’t want it to come back worse. So I took acetaminophen and bought a large bottle because I was in this for the long haul. The other thing about ibuprofen is that it can increase the risk of bleeding. Not something any of us want.

COMPUTERS AND OTHER ELECTRONICS

Computers are a problem because of the blue light they give off. I’d never had trouble with computer blue light before and didn’t believe this was a thing, but my doctor had me look through yellow tinted glasses that filters the blue lights and I could tell the difference immediately. I didn’t have any glasses like that and it would have been difficult to put them over my regular glasses, so I looked for other options. Did you know the computer will filter out some of that blue light and replace it with yellow when you turn it on night mode? It does. And it felt better on my eyes and my head, so now all my computers are in night mode with a slightly yellow tinge in comparison to the crisp bright blue light.

FLUORESCENT LIGHTS

Fluorescent lights are a huge problem. The buzzing, flickering, and intensity could be felt as soon as I walked into work. I work in an office with hundreds of these horrid things above our cubes. No filters. Many people walk out of there each day with headaches and no concussion, but for someone with a concussion, the pain is immediate when you walk into the room. I wanted to close my eyes and walk back out. However, the sunlight did the same thing for me, so being outside was no better. I was able to move to a small office where I could turn off the light and bring in a lamp with a regular low watt bulb. Much better.

NOISE

Noise has a way of sending many people off the deep edge, but when you have a concussion, that noise intensifies the head pain. Sometimes avoiding noise is difficult, but being in that small office allowed me the privilege of closing my door when hallway noise was more than I could take.

JOSTLING THAT BRAIN

Jostling the brain after a concussion is not a good plan. You’ve already shook it up pretty good when you got the injury. Jostling it only serves to lengthen the healing time and increase the pain. I had been doing yoga fairly regularly up to that point, but I realized, I could not longer do the down dog or forward bends without the blood flow into my brain intensifying the pain and making me nauseous. So yoga went by the wayside. Other than that, I have been able to keep my brain pretty jostle free, if that’s a thing.

AVOID SPORTS

Sports is a no, no. The reason the doctors don’t want you to do sports is because they don’t want a second brain injury on top of the concussion. It could cause permanent damage if you haven’t completely healed from the first injury. Outside of y0ga, that wasn’t an issue for me, so my hubby just assisted me as I walked on ice from then on to be sure I didn’t fall again.

SYMPTOMS OF A CONCUSSION

According to Mayo Clinic, these are some of the symptoms you could experience with a concussion:

  • Concentration and memory complaints
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  • Disorders of taste and smell

For me, the concussion caused headaches, brain fog and irritability. I could lose my temper at the drop of a hat, which wasn’t really like my personality. I was eating acetaminophen several times a day to keep the pain at a tolerable level and trying to keep from shaking my head when the brain fog was so thick I couldn’t focus on the next task. My vision on my right eye also blurred especially when my head pain increased. I had trouble with my sleep patterns. Some nights I slept so solid I had trouble waking up in the morning. Other nights I couldn’t sleep and spent most of the night tossing.

So, it’s mid-January now and I still have issues with eye stabbing head pain. I’m irritable, but not quite as bad. Lights and noise still bother me so at home I live like a hermit, which works out well for my autistic family who much prefers the cave feel anyway. My sleep has leveled out and I’m back to sleeping most nights now, although I don’t wake up easily in the morning. Memory issues are still there, but I keep a pen and paper with me at work to jot things down so I won’t forget.

Yes, my primary care provider told me I shouldn’t go to work until the symptoms were gone. He even offered to write a note for me. But I don’t imagine those bills are going to pay for themselves, so I’ve made the adjustments I could make to ease the pain and resigned myself to the fact that this is going to take more than a couple weeks to heal from. Early on I eliminated all electronics from my life when I wasn’t at work and that gave my brain a break.

If you are in this boat and you can do it, I’d sure recommend taking that time off. Get lots of rest to allow your brain to heal. The shorter healing time is definitely preferable, but it you can’t afford it, at lease put into practice some of the things I did and rest every chance you get.

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