When I sit down to chat with patients about the concept of “active rest” following an acute concussion, I get a lot of questions:
“How do I know how much is too much?”
“When should I stop?”
“How long can I be active for?”
There is a ton of variability between each patient, so providing specific answers can sometimes be difficult. Instead, we combine a few simple guidelines to follow with a helpful analogy to assist patients in getting a handle on the concept of actively resting.
Simple Guidelines to Follow After 24-48 Hours of Complete Rest
- Let your symptoms be your guide – at the onset of symptoms with a specific activity, stop and take a break
- If a specific activity brings on your symptoms immediately, you’re probably not ready for that activity yet
- Try to stop an activity before symptoms start to come on – the better maintained your symptoms can be throughout the day, the sooner you can progress to newer or more advanced things
- Try to get back to your regular sleep pattern ASAP
- Plan ahead – schedule must-do activities into your day so you can determine when you need to rest in order to balance your daily activities
- Pace yourself!
Treat Active Rest Time like a Daily Allowance
Imagine at the start of every day, you got $20. It’s the only money you will get for the day, and once you use it all up, you have to wait until tomorrow to get more. Anything you don’t spend for the day you get to pocket use the next day.
Our day of activity and rest following a concussion is a lot like getting this allowance. After a concussion, our brain is trying to get all of our disrupted systems back on track. Along with everything else we need to do during the day, there is only so much energy the brain can use for its repairing. Once we use it all up, we have nothing left for other tasks.
A patient who goes to bed with a raging headache or is so fatigued they can barely keep their eyes open has exhausted their energy for the day. They have spent their allowance and may be dipping in to tomorrow’s, leaving them further behind.
Our daily goal with active rest is to spend a little bit over the course of the day but leave ourselves some banked to carry over to the next day. Ideally, we will continue to increase our cash flow, which translates to us being able to spend more each subsequent day. When big events are coming up (eg. birthday party for their child, a wedding, etc), they may need to save up their allowance for that event and spend less earlier in the day.
If patients can adopt these principles into their routines following an acute concussion, they should be able to steadily increase their activity while managing to keep their post-concussion symptoms in check. Book an assessment at your local Lifemark clinic to devise a plan for your concussion recovery with our concussion care specialists.