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Debunking the myths about the brain injury “recovery plateau” [INFOGRAPHIC]

Constant Therapy | Traumatic brain injury

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Brain injury recovery is not a straight line – there are ups and downs and a plateau may occur, but that doesn’t mean recovery has stopped!

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.

Right after the initial brain injury, recovery tends to happen a lot faster, and may not necessarily require as much effort

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 next phase of healing is when neuroplasticity kicks in

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.

Feeling stuck? Here are 4 ideas to re-start brain injury recovery

  1. Change your goal or make a new one. If you’ve been working on the same thing for a long time, try changing things up and working on something different.
  2. Try a new kind of activity. Incorporate the skills you’re practicing by doing a new hobby or volunteering – you’ll be working on those skills in a different way.
  3. Join a group or social network for your specific injury. Connect with others and learn how they’ve dealt with plateaus.
  4. Take a break to recharge. Rest is an essential part of recovery and re-learning lost skills. If you’re feeling burnt out, it’s ok to take a break from practicing.

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