Brain injury, whether from TBI or stroke, is a complex condition with a wide range of injury severity and outcomes. So, when someone asks, “How long will recovery take?”, the answer really depends on the cause of the injury, location, severity and the general health of the patient.
The one thing the answer should not be is “that’s as good as your recovery will get.” Many medical providers used to say this in the past, but published research has since proven that brain injury and stroke survivors can push past a supposed “progress plateau” and improve with effective and continuous brain rehabilitation—even years after the initial event.
The true progression of recovery is characterized by fits and starts and bursts often interspersed with periods of seemingly little change, or even falling back. But with the right stimulation and therapy, recovery can keep moving forward. That’s why it’s important to keep practice and therapy going, even when it feels like progress has stopped.
This is due to something called spontaneous recovery, where the brain is healing from the trauma of the injury, and as a result, physical, cognitive, and language difficulties may improve very quickly. This is especially true in the first days, weeks, and even months after brain injury.
The term “neuroplasticity” (or “brain plasticity”) refers to the ability of our brains to reorganize, both physically and functionally, throughout our lives, due to our environment. One of the biggest shifts in our understanding of brain plasticity is that it is a lifelong phenomenon, and this understanding has had a profound impact on developing therapy for those recovering from brain injury.