“Symptoms are your brains way of saying “I’m hurt, I’m in pain, I’m drowning and I cannot do what I used to be able to.”
I don’t need a speech therapist, I can talk just fine.” This is probably the most common myth I hear people say about speech therapy. As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) I don’t work only on S’s or R’s, I can also treat swallowing, cognition, help people communicate using a picture board and complete hearing screenings. However, what most people don’t realize is that an SLP is also a central member of the treatment team for CONCUSSIONS. An SLP has unique training in brain injury treatment and recovery. One of the reasons I love working in an outpatient clinic with physical therapists is that we can treat a concussion using a team based approach. While the physical therapists focus on return to physical activity, as a Speech-Language Pathologist I focus on cognition and return to school, work and other daily thinking tasks.
Old concussion research recommended that you sit in a dark room and do nothing for 7-10 days. New research suggests there is a better way. Having the brain in a complete sensory deprived state for 7-10 days and then immediately starting to do normal daily tasks again is shocking for the brain. It often leads to increased recovery times, frustration and lingering symptoms. Our clinic approaches concussion from a return to life perspective. We balance rest from thinking and activity with returning to normal daily activities slowly as the brain heals. The PTs help people regain their balance, pariticipation in sports, treat neck and back pain and help return to exercise. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I help people regain memory, focus, concentration, sequencing, organization, complete work tasks, and school assignments and help with concussion symptom management. The primary way I do that is by treating what is called “cognitive fatigue”.
Cognitive Fatigue is more than just being tired after a head injury. It has been described as feeling completely overwhelmed, like your mind goes blank or just seems to freeze when you are trying to do a normal task that used to be easy. Head injuries are unique because when other parts of the body are injured we put them in a brace, a cast or sling and don’t use them for an extended period of time. However, after a head injury the brain is required to recover while also continuing to run all body functions. Breathing, thinking, writing, eating, walking, driving, talking – the list goes on. The brain is required to do all of these things while trying to heal. This leaves the (brain with a deficit. The amount of brain energy used every day is often more than what the brain has stored up. This causes symptoms such as dizziness, light and noise sensitivity and headaches as well as feelings of being overwhelmed or flooded. This is cognitive fatigue. Symptoms such as these are your brain’s way of saying “I’m hurt, I’m in pain, I’m drowning and I can’t do what I used to be able to”. When the brain is so overworked from trying to run the body while also healing that it can’t even perform normal functions.
So what do we do? We teach strategies to improve the efficiency of the brain. We aim to have more brain energy left over at the end of a day to be used for brain recovery. Rather than a deficit of energy causing the brain to play catch up. Treating cognitive fatigue together with return to physical activity eliminates symptoms quicker, significantly decreases recovery time and just helps people feel better faster. If you or someone you know is struggling to find improvement and recovery from a head injury, call now and let’s get you scheduled for a speech therapy evaluation.