Head injuries can lead to a variety of symptoms, but one of the most common symptoms that often goes overlooked is the feeling of fatigue. Recovering from a traumatic brain injury can be both physically and mentally draining, and that can leave you feeling more fatigued than normal. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why fatigue is a common complication after head injuries, and how to best treat the problem so you can get back to a normal life.
The Association Between Head Injuries And Fatigue
The brain is the most complex organ in the body, so sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why certain issues occur. For example, the medical community isn’t exactly sure why fatigue is such a common complaint after a head injury. Some believe that is has to do with the fact that your head and body are focusing so much energy on their recovery that they don’t have extra energy for all your normal tasks. Others believe their is a concrete scientific explanation that has to do with how damage to the basal ganglia can lead to more rapid fatigue onset. Regardless of the exact nature of why it develops, in studies about head injuries and their symptoms, fatigue or tiredness if often the most common symptom response.
There is also a distinction between physical and mental fatigue, and many individuals who suffer a head injury deal with both of these types of fatigue.
Physical fatigue – Symptoms include tiredness, loss of energy to perform tasks, getting tired sooner than normal, etc.
Mental fatigue – Difficulty concentrating, taking longer to perform tasks like reading or working, difficulty remembering, etc.
If these two conditions were a Venn diagram, there would certainly be some overlap, but there is a clear distinction between feeling physically fatigued and mentally fatigued, and both of these conditions are common after a head injury.
Treating Fatigue After A Head Injury
If you’re feeling tired days and weeks after a head injury, your instincts are probably telling you to just rest and eventually life will return to normal. Rest is definitely recommended in the short-term, but it’s not the best strategy to treat fatigue in the long-term. Visit a specialist for individualized recommendations, but odds are they’ll recommend one or more of the following strategies.
Gradually Increase Activity – Your brain needs to train its way out of this mental fatigue, and it does that by tackling more each day. Similar to training for a marathon, you gradually increase your distance over time until you can complete the full run. Follow this mindset and slowly increase your activity level as you recover from a head injury. Slowly but surely, you’ll find that you have more confidence and energy to accomplish daily tasks because your brain has been trained to be able to account for these gradual increases.
Fatigue and Fitness – Your physical health is also closely tied to your energy levels. If your heart and lungs aren’t as physically fit as they once were because your head injury has made you more sedentary, you may tire sooner when you do engage in physical activity. Slowly work to increase your physical endurance, and you’ll notice that your energy levels will respond positively.
Stick To A Routine – Commit to a rehab plan and do something that helps treat your fatigue each and every day. Don’t take the easy way out and just stay in bed. Challenge yourself to go for a walk or get some light exercise. You may find yourself more tired in the short-term, but it will serve to help your energy levels in the long-term. Make sure you’re doing something to combat your fatigue every single day.
See A Specialist – Finally, consider seeing a neurospecialist if you are being bothered by fatigue. We can really dig into the issue and develop a plan that is suited to your needs. For example, maybe the head injury has made it harder for your to fall asleep and stay asleep, and this lack of restful sleep is directly leading to your fatigue. We can help provide solutions to your sleep issue so that you can wake up each day with more energy. Everyone battles fatigue in a different way, so let us help work with you to slowly get your energy levels back to normal after a head injury.
For more information or for help with your head injury, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.