How Long Does Head Trauma Recovery Take?

Recovery from head trauma and traumatic brain injury takes time. Brain tissue has to mend and nerves may need to regenerate. It’s important not to rush recovery so the brain has adequate time to heal.

If symptoms of the head injury worsen when trying to get back to work or engage in social activities, it means the brain is being stressed; there is too much activity and more rest is needed.

Since you can’t see or directly feel a brain injury, it’s easy to want to push yourself in order to get back to work and other normal activities.

But the brain is like any other structure in the body. If there is a broken arm or a ruptured tendon, time is needed for the bone and tissues to repair themselves, and regain their strength.

It’s the same with the brain. Worsening signs of brain injury during recovery are a message that there is too much activity.

The amount of time needed to recover after head trauma and brain injury depends entirely on how severely the brain was damaged, and which parts of the brain need to recover. The medical team including doctors, nurse practitioners and rehabilitation therapists assess each person’s unique injury and develop a recovery plan that integrates adequate rest, with activities designed to bring back optimal function.

Stress from Head Trauma

An injury accident causes a great deal of stress. Patients who have been through a traumatic physical experience such as head trauma can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other long-term effects.

Mental health professionals who are specifically trained in PTSD and head trauma help manage complications and symptoms that arise from both.

If there were other serious injuries such as damaged organs and broken bones, these also stress the body and mind. Mobility limitations, pain, surgery, and infection are exhausting and overwhelming.

While the brain is trying to heal itself, it is also responding to those injuries.

The brain is required to keep all of the body systems such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and digestion in balance. It is already working hard and that makes adequate rest time even more important.

Many who have suffered head trauma worry about the future. If function is impaired in any way, this can affect one’s ability to work, care for family and move about the community freely. It is essential to talk to social workers and therapists about these worries. Stress management techniques, a clear plan that outlines the next steps for recovery and an understanding of normal healing processes help ease some of that worry.

It’s important to remember that there are ups and downs when recovering. Just as with all physical and psychological injuries, things can be progressing well and then suddenly seem to take a turn for the worse. This does not mean recovery is failing. It just means more rest and recovery time is needed.

Behaviors That Help the Brain Recover

When recovering from head trauma and brain injury, avoid alcohol use and all illicit drugs. Whenever there are wounds that need heal, it’s advised to stop smoking, since smoking slows tissue healing time.

Having a strong support network is proven by the research to aid recovery. Friends and family are an integral part of trauma recovery. Socializing with others who have experienced and overcome head trauma is great. Being able to talk about symptoms, limitations and frustrations with another person who understands exactly what you feel can be a relief. Support groups are an excellent way to learn from others what worked for them.

The primary doctor caring for a head injured patient should always be involved throughout the healing process. Keeping follow-up appointments ensures that complications are identified as soon as possible and that treatment is optimized for the most successful recovery possible.


Baker, A., Unsworth, C. A., & Lannin, N. A. (2015). Fitness-to-drive after mild traumatic brain injury: Mapping the time trajectory of recovery in the acute stages post injury. Accident Analysis And Prevention, 7950-55. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2015.03.014

Roberts, C. M., Spitz, G., & Ponsford, J. L. (2015). Retrospective analysis of the recovery of orientation and memory during posttraumatic amnesia. Neuropsychology, 29(4), 522-529. doi:10.1037/neu0000178

Teng, S. X., Katz, P. S., Maxi, J. K., Mayeux, J. P., Gilpin, N. W., & Molina, P. E. (2015). Alcohol exposure after mild focal traumatic brain injury impairs neurological recovery and exacerbates localized neuroinflammation. Brain Behavior And Immunity, 45145-156. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2014.11.006

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