Frequently Asked Questions About Concussion or Mild TBI

Clearing Up the Confusion

Dr. Lockman is a mild TBI/concussion expert with many years of experience. Below, he helps shed some light on this evolving and frequently misunderstood topic.  He additionally explains how MNNRI can help TBI patients.

What is the difference between a mild traumatic brain injury and a concussion?

The terms are interchangeable.  A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury.

What are some of the symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury?

They are varied and may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty reading
  • Sensitivity to visual motion (riding in a car, scrolling through a phone, etc.)
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Decreased taste or smell
  • Smelling things that aren’t there (frequently garbage or smoke)
  • Anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Short term memory problems
  • Difficulty with concentration, distractibility and multitasking
  • Slowed mental processing
  • Difficulty with word finding

What are some of the treatments available for mild brain injuries?

Treatment is based on the symptoms and needs of each individual.  MNNRI is able to identify and coordinate any needed medical services or therapies for the treatment of brain injuries.  Often patients will benefit from traditional therapies such as physical therapy, occupational or speech therapy.  Patients with visual symptoms may need to be evaluated by a Developmental Optometrist or a Neuro-Ophthalmologist who is experienced with brain injuries. Individuals with anxiety or depression may benefit from counseling. Medical treatment often involves the use of medications or supplements to help with headaches, sleep, mood, or fatigue.

I don’t like taking medications. Do I have to take medications to feel better?

Not necessarily.  “Pill pushing” is not a primary treatment goal at MNNRI.  Although MNNRI may prescribe traditional medications for individuals who desire them, non-pharmacological treatment options can always be explored first.  MNNRI promotes wellness, exercise and healthy lifestyles as effective treatment modalities in helping someone recover from a TBI.  Additionally, there are some nutraceuticals (vitamins and supplements) that have been shown to effective in TBI care.  Complementary modalities such as light therapy, acupuncture, and mindfulness may aid in recovery also. 

When am I going to get better?

That is hard to predict.  Most people recover fairly quickly.  However, many people take weeks, months or longer to recover.  Often, people are slow to recover because they have not been fully evaluated or treated in a comprehensive manner.  There are many symptoms that are caused by TBIs.  Unfortunately, these frequently interact and complicate each other.  Take, for example, headaches and sleep.  Headaches can cause sleep disturbance.  Conversely, sleep disturbance can cause headaches.  In order for someone to recover, these conditions need to be treated together.  This example is just the tip of the iceberg.  Comprehensive TBI care requires careful expert evaluation and coordinated, comprehensive care.

I have been told that my current symptoms could not be due to a TBI because I was injured more than 4 months ago. They said that my TBI has healed. Why do they say this?

Historically, it was assumed that the vast majority of individuals recovered quite quickly from a mild TBI.  However, this is no longer the current medical consensus.  It is increasingly being recognized that the recovery process from a mild traumatic brain injury is more complex than was assumed in the past.  Recent medical research has shown that up to 50% of individuals may still experience posttraumatic symptoms 1 year after their TBI.  Unfortunately, many patients are deprived of care due to outdated assumptions about the speed and completeness of recovery following a TBI.

Can you help me get back to work?

Absolutely.  Returning to work is one of the most important goals of treatment.  Often, an individual’s initial symptoms are too severe to allow any type of light duty.  When symptoms are improved, individuals may return to a limited work schedule with accommodations.   Gradually, individuals undergo a supervised progression in work hours and duties.  This process is accomplished through a collaborative relationship between the patient, physician, employer and other treating rehabilitation professionals.

Why should I be treated at Minnesota Neurorehabilitation Institute?

Experience.  Dr. Lockman has treated thousands of TBI patients over the last 25 years.  His spectrum of experience ranges from sideline concussion evaluations of high school football players all the way to the treatment of severely brain injured patients in a level I trauma center. He is also one of only a small number of physicians across the country who are subspecialty board certified in Brain Injury Medicine.  The subspecialty of Brain Injury Medicine is a shared subspecialty through a collaborative relationship between the American Board of Physical Medicine and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.  The subspecialty was developed in order to provide patients with physicians who possess more expertise and specialization than is available from general Neurologists or PM&R physicians. Brain Injury Medicine subspecialists like Dr. Lockman are qualified and trained to provide the most advanced and definitive non-surgical care of brain injuries available anywhere. 

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