In this Blog
Last week I asked a question on my Instagram account about what my next blog should be about. I had a few suggestions, but one resonated - Brain Injury Recovery.
As you know, I myself have not suffered a brain injury. So in this blog post, I am going to spread awareness of the research into brain injury recovery. This blog post will cover:
Molecular and physical changes after suffering a brain injury
Fatigue post injury injury
Cognition post injury
Factors that affect stroke recovery
Important factors in recovery
Throughout all these topics, I also offer my own insight into what I have experienced first hand with clients going through their recovery.
Molecular and Structural Changes Post Injury
I know what you are thinking... 'Structural changes, of course there are structural changes after a brain injury Ollie'. And yes you are correct, but there are also structural changes that are not so obvious.
Nudo (2013) studied the reshaping of the brain after brain injury. In general Nudo found that the brain can be reshaped in good (adaptive) or bad (maladaptive) ways.
Specifically, post injury, molecular and cellular events take place in and around the area of the damaged brain tissue that result in temporary AND permanent changes in the anatomy and physiology of the brain.
These changes can be adaptive and work towards rehabilitation or maladaptive which may result in struggles to adjust to certain situations or environments causing problems in everyday life.
Fatigue is a symptom of brain injury that I see in almost all of my clients. I believe that failure to manage fatigue is one of the biggest hurdles in rehabilitation.
Stulemeijer et al (2006) looked into fatigue in mild traumatic brain injury patients. They found that 32% of patients were SEVERLEY fatigued.
This severe fatigue was linked to reduced social engagement and physical activity. They also concluded that 1/3 of patients suffer from severe fatigue 6 months post injury.
Fatigue is very hard to manage. All of my clients struggle to manage their fatigue. I think that this may be down to people trying to be as active and physical as they were pre-injury.
Post-injury, you need to take time to manage your fatigue and respect what you can and cant do.
Love the journey, not the destination.
Cognition is affected in many different ways post-injury. Obviously, this depends highly on where the brain injury has occurred.
In terms of recovery, it seems that different cognitive processes recover at different speeds. Lezak (1979) looked at recovery in 24 white males. Lezak measured their cognitive skills after injury at different intervals.
Lezak found that recovery of verbal memory (remembering words) was dependent upon how bad the injury was. Lezak also concluded that memory in general seemed to get better around 3 years post-injury.
From my experience with brain injury, recovery of cognitive processes is very unique from person to person. I agree that it does depend on the severity of the injury. But also it depends upon the rehabilitation team and what their focuses are.
If you have a speech and language therapist, you are going to recover language-related skills quicker than if you did not have a speech language therapist.
The clients who I do exercise sessions with recover physical ability quicker as they are focused on physical fitness. I have seen this with various different clients.
Physical exercise is key to recovery. If you haven't yet, check out my blog post about the benefits physical exercise has on the brain here - https://www.theneuropt.co.uk/post/cognitive-gains
Physical exercise is related to many different positive changes in the brain. In terms of brain injury recovery, Arida et al (2011) concluded after looking at brain injury rehabilitation plans that physical exercise was key to recovery.
Arida et al also found that not one physical intervention fulfils all rehabilitation needs and that rehabilitation should include various different types of physical interventions.
Again, I see this with my clients. My clients progress more when they have boxing sessions AND weight lifting sessions for example. These two different exercises target different processes for them, allowing them to work on different physical and cognitive goals.
Rehabilitation is better when it is multi-dimensional.
Aside from the mentioned above, there are other factors that influence brain injury recovery.
Alaweih et al (2016) looked into other factors that influence brain injury recovery. Alaweih found that some influencing factors of brain injury recovery were age, gender and race.
I have clients of different races, genders and ages. I cannot comment on race as I have not thought about that in rehabilitation before. However, I can say that I certainly feel that age has massive part to play in recovery.
I do not think that there is one direction of how it affects rehabilitation. But sometimes the individuals I work with identify themselves, that their age may be impacting their rehabilitation in some kind of way.
As you can see, recovery post-injury is influenced by many different things. Recovery also is different for everyone. I see that everyday. There is no one right way to recover from a brain injury.
In my opinion, and from what I see with my clients, fatigue is a huge barrier to recovery IF NOT MANAGED PROPERLY. But the biggest hurdle is perception.
Perception influences everything we do. If you perceive an event in the day as terrible, you then make yourself feel terrible and useless to the 'terrible' event.
Whereas if you perceive events in a positive light and don't compare yourself to pre-injury you (easier said than done), then you can meet every challenge realistically and positively.
I hope that was an interesting read. I want to reiterate again than I have not had a brain injury and can not speak first-hand about brain injury recovery. I can only speak from my experience working with many different clients from a secondary point of view.
However if you want to know more about brain injury recovery first-hand. Here are two great blogs that you can read:
Georgie's Journey - www.georgiesjourn3y.com
Veronique Theberge - www.weirdwonderfulbrain.com
I recommend both of them highly!