Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion: your guide to recovery

Helpful tips for getting better following your concussion

It is important for you to know what to expect over the next little while and what you can do to feel better. Here are some tips that will help.

Read concussion recovery tips

Rest your brain

You will need to rest for the first day or two after your injury. Get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day. Resting your body (physical rest) and brain (mental rest) helps your brain heal.

In the first few days after your injury, stay away from doing physical activities like exercising, walking long distances or heavy household chores. Stay away from activities that make the brain work hard like reading, texting, spending time on the computer, using a cell phone, playing video games.

Going back too soon to do the things that you normally do can cause your symptoms to come back or worsen.

Take it slow

After the first few days of rest, it is important to gradually go back to doing your normal activities. Start by taking it slow and doing just a little. Try not to do everything all at once. If you feel okay, then you can try to do a bit more. Take rests and give yourself extra time to do things.

After a concussion, your brain has less energy to spare than it normally does. It is important to save physical and mental energy so that your brain can fully recover. This will also help you start to do more without getting too tired, or making your symptoms worse. Learn more about energy conservation techniques »

Go back to exercise and sports gradually. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist before returning to hard exercise or contact sports. Learn more about returning back to physical activities »

If your symptoms come back or you get new symptoms as you become more active, this is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard.

Ask your doctor when it is safe to drive, ride a bike, or work with machinery or ladders

Do not drive for at least 24 hours after the concussion.

A concussion can affect your vision and your ability to concentrate and react. These are important skills for driving, riding a bike, working with machinery or climbing ladders. Talk to your doctor or health care provider before starting these activities again.

Learn more about returning to driving »

Go back to work or school gradually

Being at work or school makes the brain work hard. Many people need to take a few days off work or school to rest the brain and until they can concentrate better. How much time you need to take off will depend on the type of job you do and how you are feeling.

When you first go back to work or school you may not be able to go back full time or do all of your tasks. Talk to your doctor or health care provider and your employer/school about going back to work or school gradually.

See your doctor and tell your employer or teachers if you are having problems. You may need to take things easier for a while or work less hours to allow your brain to fully recover/get better.

Learn more about going back to work or school »

Stay away from alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and recreational drugs may slow your recovery and put you at risk for more injury. Talk to your doctor about healthy ways to cut back or stop your use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Take care of your basic needs

Your brain and body need a balanced diet to get better and give you the energy to go about your day. Eating well can improve your mood, sleep and mental focus.

Try to eat regular meals and snacks.

Stay away from stimulants such as coffee, caffeine, pop and energy drinks. Stimulants can put added stress on your brain.

Keep a regular sleep schedule. Talk to your doctor or health care provider if you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Get more tips for sleeping better »

Follow your doctor’s exact instructions on how and when to take your medications

Talk to your doctor before you take sleeping pills and any over the counter medication such as Tylenol, Advil or Aspirin. Taking too much of these medications can make your symptoms worse.

Manage Stress

Stress, emotional upset and worry can make symptoms feel worse and get in the way of doing things that will help you get better. Try to do things that help you relax and feel calm.

Talk about your worries with someone you trust—like your doctor or health care provider or a family member or friend - this can help you feel better. Let others know how they can help you.

More ideas and tips that can help you deal with stress and emotions »

Do not do any activities that could lead to another hit to your head

It can be dangerous for the brain to be hurt again if it has not recovered from the first injury. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about the steps you need to take to return to sports.

Be careful and prevent falls. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about how to prevent falls, especially if you have problems with balance, trouble seeing, feel dizzy or have a history of falling.

Learn more about ways to protect your brain »

Use strategies to help you cope with your symptoms

In part 2 of this handbook we give you tips for dealing with

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and changes in balance
  • Noise sensitivity and tinnitus/ringing in the ears
  • Vision problems
  • Changes in thinking, memory and concentration
  • Mood changes 

Read more »

See your family doctor for help

Keep talking to your doctor or health care provider about how you are feeling. If you do not think you are getting better or if you feel down and depressed, anxious or “stressed out” you may need more support.

How long does it take to feel better?

Concussion recovery is different for each person. Most people with a concussion make a full recovery and the symptoms usually only last a few days. For some people it can take several days, weeks, or even longer to feel better.

Read more about concussion recovery

How quickly people get better depends on the injury itself, but also depends on how they take care of themselves after the injury. It can take longer to get better after a concussion if you do too much too soon.

In general, recovery may be slower in older people and in people who have other health problems like pain, anxiety, depression or learning disabilities. People who have had other concussions in the past may find that it takes longer to recover from their current injury.

Getting better takes time and patience

It is normal to have some symptoms after you have a concussion. Most symptoms go away over time and without any treatment.

Allow yourself time to get better and to slowly go back to doing the things you normally do. Recovery can have its ups and downs and can take time. Everyone is different.

Keep in mind that there will be “good days” and “bad days.” This is normal. Do not overdo it on “the good days.” This can make symptoms worse and may slow your recovery.

 When to get urgent medical care

Go to your nearest hospital or call 911 right away if you have any of the below symptoms:

  • A constant severe headache that gets worse
  • Sudden severe vomiting or nausea
  • Fainting or blacking out or if people can’t wake you up
  • Confusion or drowsiness
  • Seizures (any jerking of the body)
  • Sudden weakness or numbness
  • Trouble talking, or not making sense
  • Fluid or bleeding from the ear or nose
  • Unusual or strange behaviour

Some things you should know before leaving the hospital

Make sure that you and your family member read and understand ALL instructions before you leave the hospital. If you have questions, please ask your doctor, nurse or therapist.

Read more about concussions & leaving the hospital 

Follow-up Appointments

To help with your recovery, you may have been given an appointment in the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Be sure to keep this appointment and any other follow-up appointments that have been scheduled for you.

What if I don’t feel better in a few weeks?

If your symptoms do not get better after three or four weeks, talk to your doctor or health care provider. You can also call the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic if you, your family or health care provider have any questions about your recovery. We can give you more information, or connect you with services that can help you. In some cases, it may be helpful to arrange an appointment in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic if you don’t already have one.


Call the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at 416-480-4095.