Physical therapy can help during brain injury recovery

March 28, 2023

Traumatic brain injuries affect millions of people each year, with a vast majority of them being young adults or children.

A TBI can completely change a life, potentially causing debilitating lifelong physical, cognitive and behavioral changes.

The Brain Injury Association of America works to share information during Brain Injury Awareness Month each March. This year, advocates are focusing on spreading awareness about what a brain injury is and how it can change people, through the #MoreThanMyBrainInjury campaign.

Efforts will also focus on raising awareness of concussions, another type of brain injury, through the #ConcussionAwarenessNow campaign.

Advocates will work to raise awareness of how these are more than just injuries; they can be lifelong illnesses.

What is the difference between TBI and concussion? Unlike concussion, TBI is a severe and often debilitating injury that can result in lifelong physical, cognitive and behavioral consequences. TBI is an injury caused by a jolt or blow to the head that disrupts the brain’s normal functioning. This can result in bruising, bleeding or tearing of brain tissue, leading to a range of symptoms such as headache, nausea, confusion and loss of consciousness. TBI can occur due to a variety of reasons, including falls, sports injuries, car accidents and physical assaults.

On the other hand, concussion refers to a mild TBI that occurs after a blow to the head that does not result in any visible damage on imaging scans. While concussion can cause symptoms similar to TBI, such as dizziness, headache and memory problems, it typically resolves within a few days or weeks with proper rest and management. The main differences between TBI and concussion are in severity and long-term effects. While concussion may not result in any lasting damage, TBI can cause permanent changes in the brain's structure and function.

People with TBI may experience a range of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms such as difficulty with movement, memory loss, personality changes and depression, which can significantly impact their quality of life.

How can physical therapy help in brain injury recovery? TBI can have a profound impact on a person's ability to work, maintain relationships and carry out day-to-day activities independently. For these reasons, it is essential to seek prompt medical attention and follow a comprehensive rehabilitation program for TBI management.

Physical therapy is a critical piece of the puzzle to healing after a TBI while the brain and the muscles reconnect. Most of the time, you don’t have to think about moving your hand to grab a cup, or lifting your foot to take a step, because these actions come naturally. However, for people with TBI, the brain may no longer remember how do these things. They need to be relearned through physical therapy.

Aquacare’s team of expert physical therapists includes several who specialize in recovery from brain injuries. Their goal is to return as much of their patients’ independence as possible so they can start to move again and feel more like themselves.

Physical therapy teams work on a variety of skills, from smiling to walking, giving someone a hug, picking up items or opening a door. The team works with patients at any stage of recovery, whether the accident happened recently or several years ago.

Every injury is unique and comes with its own challenges to overcome; patients and loved ones should remember – don’t compare one case with others.

There is no timeline to recovery; everyone heals at their own pace. Injury can be more than just what you see with your eyes. Tell friends and family to be patient. Nothing is too big or too small to be a goal. Consistency is key.

If you experience a concussion, either from sports or a motor vehicle accident, our certified vestibular therapists are trained to help you recover quickly.

Concussion symptoms can be effectively rehabilitated through physical therapy. To begin, physical therapists evaluate vision and balance functions to assess how well the brain is processing body movement and how you interact with your surroundings. Our physical therapy team works one-on-one with you to create a specially tailored plan to help you fully return to regular activities such as work, school or sports.

Talk to your healthcare provider before you start a new exercise routine. If you are ready to get help to alleviate your pain, we have multiple locations trained to help patients with TBI and concussion. To schedule a consultation, call Aquacare at 844-547-7432. 

For more information, go to

Brooke Mihalek, PTA, is a physical therapist assistant at Aquacare.


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