If you’ve been unlucky enough to suffer from a concussion, you know the symptoms can be long-lasting. Headaches, nausea, dizziness and the list goes on. Some, me included, have had the unfortunate luck to be diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome. What’s it like? Just imagine being miserable for weeks, and having the effects lingers for months.
A new study is calling into question the treatment of ‘strict rest.’ It not only suggests that shorter periods of rest are more helpful, but long periods of strict rest could actually be harmful.
The current treatment guideline is to rest both physically and cognitively. Yeah, that means put the phone down and ignore Netflix for a bit. I learned that lesson the hard way. Rest is used as both a treatment and as a preventative measure. Doctors do not want patients to suffer another concussion in a short timeframe. We have all heard the horror stories of athletes suffering multiple concussions in a short period.
This latest study, in the current issue of Pediatrics, randomized treatment groups. Participants were randomly placed in short rest and strict rest protocols. Patients between the ages of 11-22 were either instructed to follow five days of strict rest, or 24-48 hours of rest before a gradual return to normal activity.
Strict rest was defined as not being able to engage in physical activity, or attend school / work functions. It closely mimics the the ‘cocoon therapy’ many clinicians recommend.
The results were stark. Strict rest had no tangible benefits of helping a patient recover faster. In reality, patients on the strict rest protocol displayed worse symptoms during the first ten days over the short rest group.
Speaking to Reuters Health, study co-author Dr. Danny G. Thomas explained the role of perception in concussion treatment. “We should be cautious when imposing excessive restrictions of activity following concussion and mindful that the discharge instructions we provide patients may influence their perception of illness.”
In the end, treatment should be individualized. Start with the 48-hour rest period and immediately follow up with your doctor. Not everyone gets post-concussive syndrome, and the shorter periods of rest will benefit all, and it will get the patient back in to see the doctor.
That’s the key, if you hit your head, see a doctor immediately. People that have persistent symptoms should keep in contact with their doctor. They may not have a cure, but they can treat your symptoms.