Getting Better After a Mild TBI or Concussion

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.

Start your recovery by taking it easy

As symptoms improve, you may gradually return to regular activities. Recovery from a mild TBI or concussion means you can do your regular activities without experiencing symptoms. Recovery from a mild TBI or concussion may be slower among:

  • Older adults
  • Young children
  • Teens
  • People who have had a concussion or other TBI in the past

The first few days

  • Take it easy the first few days after a mild TBI or concussion when symptoms are more severe.
  • You may need to take a short time off from work or school, although usually no more than 2 to 3 days.
  • Ask your healthcare for written instructions about when you can safely return to work, school, or other activities, such as driving a car.

As you start to feel better

  • As you start to feel better after the first few days of your injury, you can gradually return to regular (non-strenuous) activities, such as taking a short walk.
  • Avoid activities that make your symptoms come back or get worse.

When symptoms are nearly gone

  • When your symptoms are mild and nearly gone, you can return to most of your regular activities.
  • If your symptoms do not get worse during an activity, then that activity is OK for you. If your symptoms get worse, you should cut back on that activity.

Taking these steps may help speed your recovery:

  • Avoid activities that can put you at risk for another injury to your head and brain.
  • 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.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about medications that are safe to take during recovery to help with symptoms (for example, ibuprofen or acetaminophen for headaches).
  • Limit screen time and loud music before bed, sleep in a dark room, and keep to a fixed bedtime and wake-up schedule.

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

Talk to your healthcare provider if symptoms don’t go away

While most people with a mild TBI or concussion feel better within a couple of weeks, some will have symptoms for months or longer.1 Talk with your healthcare provider if symptoms:

  • Do not go away, 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 concussion2

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

Stay connected to others during recovery

There are many people 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, and loved ones about how you are feeling. If you do not think you are getting better, tell your healthcare provider. Examples of some groups that offer support for people living with a TBI, their family, and loved ones, include:

References
  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 rehabilitationpdf icon. 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.