Advice on recovering from a head injury

Injuries resulting from physical trauma to the head can be minor or severe. In the case of minor injuries, those affected may recover quickly without medical care, but severe injuries require attention from trained professionals. A minor bump to the head can lead to a lump or a bruise forming and there may be slight nausea and dizziness, swelling and a headache. People normally remain conscious, however, and there are no signs of deep cuts in the scalp. Even with minor injuries, it is important to monitor a person’s health over the next 48 hours, looking for signs that he or she might need to see a doctor.

More serious head injuries are diagnosed and treated in hospital

Typical warning signs after a head injury include: having trouble staying awake and losing consciousness; difficulties with speech, memory, hearing, vision, understanding, writing or reading; problems with muscle weakness or loss of balance; bleeding from a head wound or from the ears; unexplained bruising around the eyes or ears; fluid leaking from the ears or nose and odd behaviour, fitting or vomiting. A persistent headache following a head injury should always be checked out by a doctor. Severe head injuries will typically be associated with some of the symptoms described above and they require emergency treatment. In hospital, injuries will be stabilised and tests will be carried out to diagnose the problem. Wounds will be cleaned and repaired and, in some cases, neurosurgery will be carried out to treat conditions such as brain haemorrhages, blood clots and skull fractures. Recovery will then take place in hospital, sometimes in an intensive care unit.

As the brain is an adaptable organ, quite a lot of recovery can be possible even in severe cases of injury. A recovery programme is normally drawn up on leaving hospital and this contains general advice, such as not remaining alone for the first 48 hours, as well as a specific rehabilitation plan that may include neurological physiotherapy. After a rapid recovery over the first few weeks, the rate of improvement tends to slow, but the overall process can take years. Neurological physiotherapists can help patients to achieve long-term increases in function and movement.

Specialist physios help patients recover as fully as possible following head injuries

As a result of neurological physiotherapy, patients may experience improvements in balance, strength and the ability to carry out essential movements required for sitting, standing and manoeuvring themselves in or out of bed. Exercises that focus on increasing the function of the hands, arms and legs can make a big difference when it comes to carrying out everyday activities. With therapy, pain, stiffness and muscle spasms can be reduced and energy levels may increase, while the risk of falling should decrease. Some exercise programmes will be performed by the patients themselves, while other therapy may involve hands-on treatment by the neuro physio. The use of aids such as slings, hoists and wheelchairs can also improve mobility. All of these changes should result in a greater independence and better quality of life.

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