Exercise Used to Treat Hidden Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)July 26, 2017
Difficulties diagnosing TBIs, coupled with the range of associated cognitive and physical symptoms, can make these injuries especially challenging to treat.
Conventionally, TBI treatments are tailored to meet the needs, symptoms and condition of a given patient. Treatment options can include some combination of surgery, medications and various therapies. Rest is also commonly recommended for TBI patients.
Recent research,1 however, has suggested that rest may not be the best medicine for TBI patients. In fact, these findings have indicated that certain forms of exercise can be beneficial in TBI recovery.
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How Does Exercise Help TBI Patients in Recovery?
Certain types of physical activity may improve the prognoses for TBIs because, for TBI patients, exercise can help:
- Overcome fatigue and a sedentary lifestyle
- Restore a sense of balance and coordination
- Improve range of motion and cardiovascular fitness
- Motivate patients while combatting short-term memory problems
- Enhance self-esteem, which can be important to fighting depression, establishing healthy habits and avoiding risky habits (like smoking).
Disclaimer: Before starting any exercise regimen, TBI patients should consult their doctors.
How to Develop an Exercise Program for TBI Survivors
The best course of physical activity for a TBI patient will depend on various factors, like (but not limited to):
- The severity of the TBI and related symptoms
- The age and overall health of the patient (including whether other existing health conditions or impairments may be present)
- A patient’s capacity to understand and comply with a fitness regimen.
While medical professionals are the key to developing the right individualized fitness program for a given TBI patient, in general, these regimens can include exercise like (but not necessarily exclusive to):
- Stretching, which can help gradually improve range of motion, muscle control and coordination – Stretching should be done in a controlled, gradual manner. It may be done on a daily basis (before, during, after and/or independent of other physical activity).
- Strength training, which can improve mood, energy levels, motivation and muscle tone – This can include a series of exercises for different muscle groups or areas of the body. While lunges, sit-ups and push-ups can be great strength training for TBI patients, yoga and/or Pilates can also be good options.
- Cardio/aerobic exercise, which can improve blood flow to the brain while improving strength, muscle tone and mood – Any (safe) exercise that boosts heart rate while using multiple muscle groups can be beneficial for TBI patients. Some examples walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. For those who may be experiencing balance and/or coordination problems, seated aerobic exercises (like, for instance, recumbent cycling) are recommended.
- Cognitive exercise, which can target mental symptoms like difficulty thinking, remembering or concentrating – Games that require patients to focus and use various parts of their brain can be great forms of cognitive exercise.
Here, it’s important to point out that, for TBI patients:
- Fitness programs should be repetitive – Writing down and posting the regimen (and the associated benefits) can motivate patients while helping them combat issues with short-term memory.
- Medical treatments may be just one aspect of the TBI recovery process – For those who sustained a TBI due to some form of negligence (like in a car accident caused by a reckless driver), there may also be legal options for financial recovery.
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If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, contact a Houston brain injury lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm for a free consultation and clear answers about your recovery options.
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1: According to findings from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity & Disability (NCHPAD)