Tricks of the Trade
This does sound weird I know. But let me explain. Apparently, juggling is one of the few things that stimulates the entire brain. All parts of it. This is something, I’ve heard, they even teach in old peoples homes. I was injured in February 2016, and I was introduced to juggling by a friend during the summer of 2017. I had no clue about juggling and had never been able to. The first time I tried, I had to quit after 30 seconds. All of my symptoms came rushing back. I was later reintroduced to juggling in January 2018. By then, I had done my vision therapy and my eyes, balance, and coordination worked a lot better. I was able to juggle for 15 minutes. I then worked my tolerance up to 60 minutes. It took a lot of effort but it was so worth it. Now, I’m close to being able to juggle 4 balls. For the best juggling teacher in town, call Juha Ekorre at Woltti Sirkus.
Make your recovery look like you. This way, the chances you’ll do all of the things are higher. For me, looking at a laser pointer for about 5 months in order to rehab my eyes was enough. After that, I took all of the info I had been given by my team and picked up an ice hockey stick and ball. I quickly deduced that this method had all the same elements my laser pointer rehab did. And it also challenged my balance.
Kinesiology tape is a savior, my physiotherapist has been experimenting with it since the early 2000’s and calls it miracle tape. It truly is and does have effects that correlate with medication, so be careful in the beginning but do an experiment. Especially the neck area and in the case of whiplash injuries, often causing TBI like symptoms that stem from the neck, can be fixed with Kinesio tape. I had trouble with coordination so, my osteopath and physiotherapist made me do a few tests. I failed or struggled. They taped my neck and boom, my sensory feedback had been heightened. The tape allowed me to process the exercises better and quicker. Talk to someone who knows this area. Or! Experiment yourself, but please! Please remember, Kinesio tape can cause serious impairments. Do not drive with new tape. Reserve time to get to know your new tape.
Balance Plate Analysis (Heli-Marja Oksanen)
This is a very good method of mapping out your balance system. Essentially, you stand on a large plate and try to perform a ton of tasks without losing your balance. It is a nightmare at worst but gives you great insight into what is wrong and how bad your situation might be. In my case, it was a shock for me and my physiotherapist. But very very useful.
When I can feel my brain fog building I take an Alka-Seltzer Gold and it gives me a tiny temporary relief. I’m not sure how it helps but it does. It has to be the Gold Alka-Seltzer, the other ones don’t work.
In My Bag
In my purse I always keep the Alka-Seltxer gold, ear plugs, Ibuprofen, and an eye cover. Those are the “just incase” esseintals. When I leave the house I always have a hat and sunglasses. Water is huge. I always have a water bottle with me. Drinking plenty of water through the day is very important for brain health and TBI management. Water keeps the cells in the brian working properly. If cells lose hydration they lose efficiency.
I started to drink a lot more water which helps as well.
These are a little trick I have used for years to help combat my PCS nausea, especially when combined with motion sickness. While
I do catch a lot of grief from friends as they look straight out of an Avril Lavigne music video, the bands have kept me from vomiting many times. They have a plastic bead that rests upon the Nei-Kuan/ Nei Guan/ P6 acupoint, which is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat nausea. Acupressure for nausea can be very effective and comes without the debilitating drowsy side effects of traditional antiemetic (treating nausea) medications. On days when I am particularly nauseated, I combine these bands with a few
drops of peppermint essential oil dabbed behind my ears. What are your go-to nausea tricks? Do you use acupressure for anything else?
It’s easiest to store everything in one big binder. What should be included? A list of practitioners - Include business cards so that all of their information is in one place. A calendar- Jot down all of your appointment dates and times. Make note of when you start and stop any new treatments or doctors, or when you have any specific tests or scans done. Copies of all scans and labs- Finding these when seeing new doctors is such a hassle if they are not all in one easy place. A list of all symptoms and medications- Update this periodically to be able to track progress for both you and your doctors. Include questions and concerns for any new appointments. This will be valuable for that appointment and for tracking your progress.
What seems like an inconsequential annoyance can actually impact your cognitive function. Dr. Zelinsky notices that this symptom disrupts the ability to process the information sent from our eyes to our brains. This is a common occurrence after brain injury, and can increase typical brain injury symptoms. Make sure to address this with your neurologist, and use eye drops as frequently as needed. Don’t make it even more challenging for your brain to work efficiently.
Track this. Track that. Also, that. Obviously, knowing what to keep track of with your injury can be overwhelming, even for someone without a brain injury. Let’s try to simplify that. Doodled here are a few different strategies for documentation. How do you track your progress? Buy a calendar specifically dedicated to your recovery. Maybe even get one with images that relax or inspire you. On the side of every month, make a key. This way, you can write one letter for each therapy instead of trying to cram in every word in a tiny little box. For example, H= hyperbaric oxygen therapy. S= sleep, when I get a solid nap or full night’s rest. S2= supplements, all of the different vitamins I assign to myself every day. I give a pain rating out of 10. One quick number to rate my migraines. I write my “bads”, all of my slip-ups so that I can track how they may be affecting me. This includes things not included on my diet, pain medicines, alcohol, stress. Stress can include anything from an overstimulating shopping trip, a loud restaurant, or planning a trip beyond my energy means. Don’t get discouraged from admitting these! Accurate data is important. You are on your own team. This data is not for criticising yourself. I try not to track too many things as tracking should be a quick, simple process to prevent fatigue and overwhelm. However, if you find yourself able, track as many factors as you can manage. Consider your diet, medications, weather changes, amount of sleep, stress factors, etc. Also, apps can be really effective, too! I have found the Amgen Migraine Voice Journal and the Quell app to be the most effective. Let us know which apps you prefer!
Quick Computer Accessibility Tips
The best computer usage following a concussion is minimal computer usage. In fact, most doctors recommend no screen usage in the first 24-48 hours following injury. However, there are times when use is inevitable. Here are ways to reduce the strain of electronics. Check the comments for specific steps on how to make these changes. Also, please add your favorite tips!
1.Make your screen warmer, and reduce blue light.
2.Adjust the Brightness.
3.Adjust the Refresh Rate.
4.Use Text-to-Speech Software.
5.Change the Background Color.
6. Consider blue-blocking glasses, or even glasses more specialized to your exact brain injury. These can be found through a behavioral optometrist or an ophthalmologist trained in the Zelinsky method.
Note: If the steps listed do not work for you, a quick Google search with the topic and your computer’s operating system will most likely list the steps in an easily understandable format.
Oral medications must bypass both the stomach and the liver before reaching their intended target, which dilutes the strength of the medicine and taxes your liver. Inhaling medication through the nose is a quick and effective way to deliver the substance to the brain. (Think of the quick delivery times of drugs like anesthesia or cocaine.) Ask your doctor to consider nasal delivery versions of drugs for post-concussion issues such as migraine or pain if oral meds are not feeling effective, or you are concerned about the effects on your liver.
Why do many neurologists and functional medicine practitioners refer to blueberries as “brainberries”? Polyphenols are found in plants in order to help the plant deal with stress such as frigid temperatures, UV light, and drought. When humans consume these nutrients, they are able to cross the blood brain barrier and show neuroprotective effects. Eating polyphenols can decrease inflammation and excitotoxicity leading to cell death. They increase antioxidants and can improve cognitive function. How much should we be eating? Work to include blueberries in your diet 1-3 times per day. Antioxidants are shown to be higher when the produce is wild and organic. Aside from just eating blueberries, you can drink pure blueberry juice or add blueberry powder to your tea or smoothies. As always, check with your doctor before starting anything new!
In the chronic illness community, a lot of us struggle to explain our endless fatigue to "outsiders." While that is rough, it's even harder when you struggle to find a way to explain it to yourself. The Spoon Theory was developed by Christine Miserando and helps explain how little, seemingly meaningless activities still drain the energy of those with a limited reserve. "Spoons" basically represent our energy reserves, or our metaphorical battery packs. We all have different amounts of spoons, and different activities affect us differently. For example, a "spoonie" with brain injury would use far more than 2 spoons to study or surf the internet, and your spoon count may vary based upon the day. If you overuse your daily spoon count, you have to spend the next few days recovering
I worked with an Occupational Therapist for months and a lot of my cognitive homework could be done by anyone and anywhere. Stock up on your favourite workbooks (sudoku, crosswords, word searches, etc). If that isn't enough, try to solve a Rubik's cube or puzzle. Going online is another great option as there are websites, such as Luminosity, BrainHQ, HappyNeuron and Cogmed, designed specifically to improve your brain's functionality. Pace yourself and do one or two things each day. Time yourself! Work on beating your personal best time.
I am huge advocate for seeing counselors and psychologists, but the sad reality is that these therapy sessions can be so so costly. A great alternative is journaling. It helps sort through your jumbled thoughts, clear your mind, identify problems, find solutions, etc. You can unload your feelings and emotions without judgment. I have been blogging. Not only has it allowed me to write openly about my journey with post-concussion syndrome, but it has forced me to find solutions and ways to cope with my setbacks. Reading over my own words, I'm starting to see myself as I would a dear friend, which is so helpful as I've always been more critical of myself than I am of others. Practicing self-compassion is difficult, but blogging has made it easier. Not a writer? No problem. I met someone at my concussion clinic who would tape record herself as she found writing difficult after her injury. Another individual used a talk-to-text application on his phone.