Is rest best for concussion recovery?


Table of contents:

0:45 Concussion rest advice
4:58 Concussion rest: the origins
10:22 If rest isn’t working for you
12:51 Rest for post-concussion syndrome
18:00 Replacing rest to heal your concussion
21:20 How to heal your lingering concussion

Introduction to this Concussion Stories episode

 Concussion Rest for Recovery

In this episode of Concussions Stories, Melanie talks about the classic advice taking rest to heal a concussion. You might very well have been given this advice. But has it been helping you, or hasn’t it – and is that why you went looking for alternatives?

In this episode, Melanie helps you understand where the advice of rest really comes from. And she helps you choose for yourself whether this advice is working for you – or that you need something else. And what is that? Listen to this episode to find out!

Transcript & links

What follows is a transcript of this podcast episode. Also, in this episode I promise tot link 1 resource I made for you: Concussion and Depression: The Complete Guide.

Concussion Stories

[0:00] Welcome to Concussion Stories: a Lifeyana podcast series filled with hope. I’m here to let you know that you are not alone in your concussion recovery. I’m Melanie and I spent more than six years experimenting, training, and learning to heal myself from a very bad case of post-concussion syndrome. And today, I feel better than ever before.

In Concussion Stories, we dig deep while discussing hopeful stories of recovery as well as the hard stuff in the messy middle. If you’re struggling to focus, be sure to take breaks. Down in the description of each episode, you can find a table of contents in case you want to skip ahead. Let’s dive right in.

Concussion rest advice

Concussion rest advice

[0:45] Today’s episode I want to devote to a question that I have had for a long time and I know a lot of you have, too. And that’s because, as you can imagine, since the start of Lifeyana, I get questions from all of you.

Even though I email you back or send you a message back through social media, I also want to spend time in Concussion Stories answering these questions as well, so that the answers are not only available to one of you, but to all of you. And also, to those of you who have this question as well, but haven’t been able to either ask it or find an answer to it on the internet.

An imaginary email

So to understand todday’s question I would like to read you an imaginary email that I could have gotten from you. So this is not a real email, these are not real words that I got from one of you. It’s just like a compilation in order to convey the idea of the question. So the email goes like this.

The letter asking about rest

Hey Melanie,

I’ve been recovering from a concussion for months already. And lately I have the feeling that even though I have gotten some results in the beginning, I have the feeling that I’m not getting any better. And even, I’m loosing grip on my recovery. So I feel like I’m losing my energy, I feel like my symptoms get worse, and it’s really hard for me to know what to do.

So what I tried was going back to my neurologist, and after hearing me out, she told me that maybe it would be best if I would take a month or two in order to rest. To cancel my work appointments, to cancel my social engagements, so that my brain would really get the space, the capacity, to recover.

I really have a gut feeling that this isn’t right for me. I don’t know what I should do, but I feel that you can relate and I feel that you have ideas about alternatives to resting. Can you help me?

Is cognitive rest best?

So, again, this is not a literal email that I have received. I just want to use these words to illustrate the question.

So the question really is: I don’t feel like rest is the best advice for me. But still, I got it. And I got it from a doctor and I trust him or her or them.

And what is better than rest?

But it doesn’t sit right with me: I have a feeling that it isn’t right for me: But I also don’t know what IS right for me. What should I do?

That’s what this episode is for; that’s what I’m now doing. I want to give you an answer to this question. And I’m really looking forward to diving into this question with you.

Doctor’s advice: strict rest

So first off, when you sustain your concussion, and you visit a doctor, most of us hear, and I know that most of you have heard this too, that you should take rest. And when this message is explained, it becomes clear that rest means strict rest.

Where does the advice to rest come from?

So, what I would love to do today with you is look into this question. So, see really where it comes from, or what assumptions does it originate from?

How come a lot of us are given this advice, while a lot of us also experience that we don’t or don’t really benefit from it.

What does research say about rest?

Then, where is science headed? So, what are scientists uncovering about the brain? And how does this influence this protocol of rest that we are still being given to this day?

And if you’re doubting that rest is the best thing for you, because you’ve been trying it and it hasn’t worked the way you wanted it too, namely, you making a full recovery, what then could you be doing in order to heal yourself and cure your own concussion?

How to approach your recovery

You are not alone in this struggle, in this question about what you should do and in what way you should approach your recovery. But also, to give you practical tools with which you can move forward, get action and get positive results where you would have wanted to see them before.

So that’s the plan. Let’s get started.

Concussion rest: the origins

Concussion rest: the origins

[4:58] The first topic that we’re gonna cover is where does the advice of rest really come from? How come a lot of us are given this advice? And is it that bad? Or is it just good advice, but it isn’t working for you? In what context should you view it?

That’s what we’re gonna look into right now.

Higer risk of even more brain injury

The most important reason is that the concussed brain is at more risk of more injury.

So, if you have a concussion, and you can probably relate to this, you might have for example balancing issues, or you may have trouble with your vision. Or you may have experienced vertigo, for example.

Oh, and let’s not forget, most of us, if you haven’t had the symptoms that I just described, most of us have trouble concentrating.

Harder to focus = Risk of INJURY

And this makes it hard for example to focus in traffic. Or, for example, if you would be doing sports, even the sport that you have been training for all of your life already, you may still experience that you are slower.

Because you’re just not able to concentrate that well. And all of these things put you at more risk of sustaining more injury.

Second Impact Syndrome

And as hard as a concussion already is, second impact syndrome is even harder. If you have a concussion, you really want to avoid further injury.

And still, people, if you have second impact syndrome or even more, there’s still so many things you can do.

And if you listen more to this episode, you will find that all the things that I’m telling with regard to activity later on in this episode, also go for you.

So, the first reason that we are being advised to take rest after sustaining a concussion is to avoid further injury. That’s what this advice firstly, and foremost, is for.

The common belief about brains

[6:58] There’s a second reason. So, to understand it, you have to go back in time. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story as well when you were younger, but it was a common belief that children’s brains would grow, right.

Children would learn and children would adapt. And then when they became adults, their brains just wouldn’t change that much anymore.

A brain injury needed rest

So, from this belief came, of course, the idea that if your brain was broken later on in life, if you had a brain injury, there was really not much that you could do.

The best thing you could do was to rest in order to give your brain as much space and as much capacity to recover.That was the paradigm that was underlying this protocol of rest.

Cognitive rest in research

[7:42] Then thirdly, although there is limited data that suggests that cognitive rest is the best after sustaining a concussion, there also is research that has found that rest is best after a concussion. And to understand this, you need to understand how science works.

You can see that already in about ’95, there were some doctors in the field, stating: based on what we see in real life cases, we believe strict rest isn’t the best advice that we can give to our patients.

And then, somewhere between then and 2005, some researchers were starting to look into the question of whether rest was really best for everyone.

Mixed findings on strict rest

From all of this pioneering research, you can see that mostly the message that came out of it was two-fold.

One, there was limited data to support that cognitive rest was the best recommendation for everyone.

Two, there were mixed findings. So, some research found that rest was best. And some research found that rest wasn’t best.

So, what was the answer?

More research into rest

And that’s how a lot of research has come about, I would say in the last 15 to 10 years. And you can find a lot of research that’s being done concerning this question. But also diving into sub questions like not only considering concussions, but also specifically and that’s interesting for us, post-concussion syndrome.

What About Rest for Post-Concussion Syndrome?

So, what should you be doing, really, after you’ve had your concussion for a while already? Is rest still best then? Or should you be doing other things? You see how this is taking a lot of years?

So, I’d say that since 1995, this whole train is starting to get a pace.

A new protocol needs to take shape

[9:34] What’s happening now is that they have findings, then they will do longitudinal studies, they will do peer reviews, they will have panel discussions.

And all of them have to converge to a point where they say, okay, now the protocol needs to be revised, or renewed, or whatever you may call it.

But: this will be our protocol for now, until we have new findings, and we get to a new protocol.

But Research Is Slow…

You see, that’s how it’s being done in research. And that’s really good, because it has to be this thorough, it has to be this slow in a way, in order to be consistent and constructive, but also valid.

But that’s the problem for you and me: we don’t have this time.

If rest isn’t working for you

If rest isn't working for you

[10:22] I didn’t have this time back when I was recovering. Because one, if you feel that rest isn’t working for you, you need something else. And you need this something else soon, because you want to get your life back, you need to get your life back. And that’s number two.

Isolation after my concussion

In my case, I was resting and I was working within this paradigm that I needed to rest and should not be forcing my brain to do… much.

For the first years I was really isolated.

Since a concussion already is an invisible illness, and add to that that I had trouble talking about my emotions with people, I experienced loneliness and isolation from this.

Even though I saw people while going for example to work, or meeting family or friends, or going for groceries. I saw people, but still I was isolated.

Feelings of grief

Add to this the feeling that I had lost a lot of what had been my life, like my ambitions, my dreams, my capacity to do work, my capacity to do simple things like groceries, my capacity to be a friend.

All these things that I used to be able to do, I couldn’t anymore. And this resulted in feelings of grief.

Depression and thoughts about death

But also, in the end, in depression. And I had no idea that this was going on. Until one moment I found myself sitting on my couch and I was thinking about death. And these thoughts went on for a while until I sort of ‘woke up’.

I was like: what is happ…where are my thoughts leading me? This isn’t something that I would consider before my accident, before my concussion.

So why was I now? What was happening?

Concussion and depression guide

If you have been experiencing this, please have a look at my depression guide.

I’ve written this very long blog post about concussion and depression, because I know it’s so common, but not a lot of people talk about it.

You are not crazy

From the start, I’ve decided that I want to just get everything out there. Everything that came with my concussion, especially all the psychological effects.

So that you know that this is a normal response to having so much adversity in your life, because a concussion never is just a concussion. If your brain doesn’t work, your whole life is affected.

If you feel there’s no point in living

[12:51] And if you feel like you have nothing to look forward to, because it’s been such a mess, and you don’t know your way out, you can feel like there’s no point in living anymore.

I really hope that you don’t feel this way, because there is a point to living. And after having been through all of that, I have found happiness again. I have found joy and meaning in my life. And I want you to experience the same.

I have thrived after depression

But that’s also why I want to acknowledge this, because if you feel that way, know that I’ve been through it. And I’ve come out the other end.

And I now know that there’s so much value in life, especially if you afterwards can help others not experience the same.

Well, that’s what gives meaning to my life. Being here with you right now.

Spend time with me in this episode, but also in other episodes and on the Lifeyana website, on Instagram, where ever. Stay close to me, I promise you to make so many materials that are focused on helping you get through this.

How to know rest doesn’t work for you

[13:51] So, getting back to the question of activity versus rest, I believe that rest can be wrong for you, if one: you feel that even though you have really tried strict rest, it hasn’t helped you.

And two: if you feel it really isolates you and gets you in this position where you feel like you have not much to look forward to anymore, this puts you in a dangerous position where you might be experiencing depression or even worse.

And you don’t want to go there.

Rest 24 to 48 hours after concussion

Okay, so if you experience one of these things, or both of them, rest isn’t the best advice for you, you can know for sure.

Then, also, rest has been given as an advice for the first 24 to 48 hours after sustaining a concussion. That’s the basics.

Adverse side-effects within 48 hours

Because if more serious things happen, like a brain bleed, for example, that’s when most of them would occur.

So, if you would have harmful side effects from the movement that your brain has made, that’s when there’s the biggest chance of this happening.

And still, this is also being researched and being discussed by researchers right now. But that’s a really different story. So, I’m not going to dive into that right now.

Rest for post-concussion syndrome

[12:51] But it’s important to know that the advice of rest for the first 24 to 48 hours is being copied for all the time that comes after that.

So not only for the first two to three weeks of having a concussion, but also for patients who have been having concussion symptoms for two or three or more weeks. So, people who have post-concussion syndrome.

But is rest best for PCS?

And this really is a big question mark, because even though researchers have been finding in certain cases that rest is good, research also has found that if you have had your concussion for multiple weeks, the advice of rest is really based upon the basic protocol that a concussion needs rest.

Post-concussion syndrome is always beyond 48 hours!

[13:38] But you see, the thing is that most people with post-concussion syndrome are way beyond those first 24 to 48 hours of being at risk – or being at high risk – of having really serious side effects.

And this is how it’s not a bad idea, if you have tried to take rest for a while and you have experienced that it hasn’t done you any good or it has just limited effect – or like in my case, you’ve only gotten worse from the start, it’s really a good idea to reconsider whether rest is best for you.

Lack of research on Post-concussion Syndrome

The point is that if you have post-concussion syndrome like I had, the protocol of rest is mostly based on the protocol of rest that is there for concussions and specifically for the first 24 to 48 hours.

Answers needed about rest

And now you can probably understand where it comes from.

And also, you can understand how it still is being given, because the jury is still out about when rest is best – if rest is best.

If it’s best, in what cases, for what duration, for whom, what should it look like?

All these kinds of details are still being figured out, are still being researched, are being discussed.

When rest isn’t the best protocol

[17:07] And the only thing that you should know right now, if you feel like rest isn’t working for you, if you’ve tried it, and it hasn’t given you the results that you want to see (namely complete recovery), you can safely assume that rest isn’t the best protocol for you.

Doctors mostly stick to protocol

And this isn’t what a lot of doctors will tell you because protocols are there for a reason. They are good in the sense that they protect and help recover most of the people. And it ensures that the advice that is being given is based on the agreed upon science.

A New protocol to cure your concussion

But as we have just discussed, since science takes a long time to being agreed upon, you need something in between.

And what then is there for you in order to replace this advice of rest with? Well, that’s a new paradigm.

Replacing rest to heal your concussion

Replacing rest to heal your concussion

[18:00] While it has been here now for a while, it’s only becoming common knowledge recently. This really is the fundamental thing that I did in order to cure my own concussion.

So, let’s have a look at how you should do that.

The old belief about brains & injury

So do you remember how I told you that before, it was common belief that children had changing brains, and then when we’re adults, the brain just stops growing and adapting?

And if you would have an injury, the best thing you could do is to give it rest in order for it to use all of its capacity to heal and have the best chance of recovering, right?

That’s mostly it. The way I would say it in simple words.

The brain is able to heal after injury!

And then, more and more research started to find out, started to uncover, that the brain really isn’t static.

That adults were capable of learning – and even after a serious injury, their brains were able to not only restore, but also regenerate.

And certain areas of the brain were able to take over capacity and skills that other areas of the brain were previously responsible for.

The brain is PLASTIC

Scientists were uncovering that the brain wasn’t static, unable to change and adapt. Researchers were uncovering that the brain was plastic. That’s how they call it.

Professor Sitskoorn: get active about recovery

[19:25] And in one of our future Concussion Stories episodes, I’m honored to speak with Professor Sitskoorn, who has really helped me move this paradigm actually inside my head from the traditional way of looking at a concussion and taking rest, to getting really active about my recovery.

The meaning of Neuroplasticity

She is very clear about neuroplasticity. And the way she describes it is that our brains change and adapt constantly.

In her book, she writes that new cells are made not only during childhood, but during our whole lives. She also writes that new connections between those cells are literally made any given time.

We change our brains by our behavior

And we, you and I, we can influence this process. And we do that by our behavior. So, if you treat your brain as static, and you believe it cannot change, and it cannot recover, and you thus. do nothing to heal it, aka rest, it won’t heal.

If you, on the other hand, change your behaviour and you train your brain constructively and consistently in a controlled environment, it will adapt and it will regenerate.

Inside the Cure My Concussion course

And this view of the brain that many medical professionals often still don’t know how to put into practice, is one of the many fundamental principles that we apply in the Cure My Concussion course to heal our broken brains.

The old beliefs govern the rest protocol

Having now heard all of this about the new paradigm, how it works, how our brains are not static, but always able to change, to learn, to adapt, to regenerate, to heal themselves – with our help – you can understand how the advice that you may have been given to rest, even when you have post-concussion syndrome (so, you have had your concussion symptoms for a while now), is really based on the old paradigm.

How to heal your lingering concussion

How to heal your lingering concussion

[21:20] Your brain is able to restore, your brain is able to heal, but since you have post-concussion syndrome, you can safely assume that it isn’t able to do it well enough. But: there’s so much that you can do because you can influence the way your brain works.

This is how I healed my concussion

This way of thinking that I’m now describing is exactly what I did. And that’s one of the vital cornerstones that the Cure My Concussion course is built upon.

Learn it all in a matter of hours

I bundled all of my lessons, and all of the practical how-to’s in there, so that they are available to you and you can skip the years that it took me to figure all of this out and learn in a matter of hours.

But for now, I really hope that this already helped you so much in the way you can view your concussion recovery.

Quick question for you

[21:36] And there’s one final thing that I’d like to ask you to do right now. And that is to share with me what you’re taking away from this episode.

What is one action that you’d like to try right away so that you can start improving your recovery?

Let me know in the comments below.

And if you want to hear and read more concussion stories, actionable steps and inspiration, be sure to subscribe to the Lifeyana email list so that you never miss out on new materials we constantly make for you.

Thank you for listening to this Concussion Stories episode by Lifeyana.

May you be well, and may you be happy.

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