What to Do After a Mild TBI or Concussion

Key points

  • There are steps you can take to feel better after a mild TBI or concussion.
  • If you do not think you are getting better or your symptoms are getting worse, tell your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a specialist.

When to seek medical care

Experiencing a mild TBI or concussion might feel scary, but knowing what to do can help. Getting care from a healthcare provider can speed your recovery. With proper care, most people can return to work, school, and many other activities within a few days or weeks after a mild TBI or concussion.

Talk to your healthcare provider if symptoms don't go away.

Some people will have symptoms for months or longer.1 Talk with your healthcare provider if symptoms:

  • Do not go away within 2 to 3 weeks, or
  • Get worse after you return to your regular activities

Anxiety and depression may make it harder to adjust to the symptoms of a mild TBI or concussion.2

If you have one or more symptoms that last months after the injury, your healthcare provider may talk to you about post-concussive syndrome. Post-concussive syndrome is believed to occur most commonly among people with:

  • A history of multiple mild TBI or concussions, or
  • Prior health conditions, such as depression and anxiety2

Steps to take

The first few days

  • Resting is good the first few days after a mild TBI or concussion as this is when symptoms are more severe.
  • You may need to take a short time off from work or school, although usually no more than 1 to 2 days.
  • Find relaxing activities like reading and taking a short walk with a friend.

Start light physical activity, such as taking a short walk

  • After one or two days of rest, it's important to ease back into your regular activities even if you still have some mild symptoms. If your symptoms get worse, you should cut back on that activity.
  • Ask your health care provider for written instructions about when you can safely return to work, school, or other activities, such as driving a car.

When symptoms are nearly gone

  • When your symptoms are mild and nearly gone, you can return to most of your regular activities.
  • Recovery from a mild TBI or concussion means you can do your regular activities without experiencing symptoms.
  • Recovery may be slower among: older adults, young children, and people who have had a concussion or other TBI in the past.


CDC's HEADS UP campaign includes steps to help children return to school and sports safely after a mild TBI or concussion.

Help speed recovery

Taking these steps may help speed your recovery:

  • Avoid activities that can put you at risk for another injury to your head and brain, such as playing sports.
  • Stay connected to friends and loved ones and talk with them about how you are feeling. Having support from family and friends can help with your recovery.
  • Talk with your employer about Employee Assistance Programs and other support services to help you get back to work safely.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about medications that are safe to take during recovery to help with symptoms.
  • Limit screen time and loud music before bed, sleep in a dark room, and keep to a fixed bedtime and wake-up schedule.

Finding support

Stay connected to others during recovery.

There are many organizations who can help you and your family as you recover. You do not have to do it alone. Keep talking with your healthcare provider, family members, caregivers, and loved ones about how you are feeling. If you do not think you are getting better, tell your healthcare provider.

See Where to Get Help webpage for more information on organizations that can provide support for persons living with a TBI and their families.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on traumatic brain injury in the United States: Epidemiology and rehabilitation. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2015.
  2. Polinder S, Cnossen MC, Real RGL, Covic A, Gorbunova A, Voormolen DC, et al. A Multidimensional approach to post-concussion symptoms in mild traumatic brain injury. Front Neurol. 2018;19(9):1113.