Effects of Brain Injuries
Effects of brain injuries
Brain injury lawyers need to have an understanding of how the brain works, how it can be injured, the common effects of brain injury, and what can be done to help brain injury victims recover.
The human brain is an exceedingly complex organism that is crucial to everything we do. For more information you can read my article: Understanding how the brain works.
Every injury is unique
One of the interesting things about the brain is that its complexity results in seemingly unpredictable injury-symptom patterns and recovery timelines. This is one of the things that make being a brain injury lawyer so challenging.
People who have suffered brain injuries may experience vastly different symptoms from others. Additionally, some people will recover much more quickly than others. While it is possible to suffer a brain injury and fully recover within hours or days, the timeline for brain injury recovery in most cases is measured in years rather than months.
Traumatic brain injury is sometimes called The Invisible Injury because the trauma can happen at a microscopic level in the brain that can’t be seen using typical diagnostic tools like X-rays, CT scans, or MRI machines.
Furthermore the effects of brain injury can be so subtle that they can be easily missed by the health care professionals who are treating you.
Brain injury lawyers have to be familiar with the common symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
When we think of brain injuries we commonly think of people with memory problems. In fact memory loss (amnesia) is one of the definitive signs that someone has suffered a brain injury. Whether it is in a car accident or a big hit in hockey, you occasionally hear of people who have no idea where they were or what they were doing just before or after the received a blow to the head.
Loss of memory from before the trauma is referred to as retrograde amnesia. This type of memory loss usually doesn’t cover a long period of time. Usually just the moments before the trauma are lost. Sometimes more extensive periods of time before the injury are forgotten.
Amnesia may improve over time (the memories come back) or it may be permanent and the memory is lost forever.
It is generally accepted that the less significant the trauma to the brain, the less retrograde amnesia is experienced. Most neuroscientists believe that this type of memory loss happens as a result of damage to the hippocampus, deep inside the brain.
What about the loss of memory of things that happened after a brain injury? This type of memory loss is referred to as anterograde amnesia.
In the hours, days, and weeks following an injury, victims may not be able to form memories of their experiences. Neuro-scientists believe this is a result of the brain being damaged and working to repair itself. As the brain is busy re-wiring itself, it sometimes neglects to store current experiences.
Treatment and recovery
So what can you do to recover from memory problems? Typically you will be referred to a professional, usually a psychologist, who specializes in the treatment of brain injury survivors.
There are number of memory strategies taught by specialists. Because each brain injury is unique, the best memory recovery strategy is different for each person. A brain injury specialist will be able to determine which is best for you.
Frequently brain injury survivors are taught how to break down information into manageable chunks. The same way that we remember phone numbers as 3-digits followed by 4-digits, instead of 7 straight digits, our brains work better if we memorize smaller bits of data.
Treatment may also involve helping you get back to your usual sleep routine. If you are tired the symptoms of head injuries can be magnified.
Headaches are probably the most common symptom of brain injuries. Approximately 50-percent of people who suffer a from head injury complain of headaches upon being discharged from the hospital. According to one study, 33-percent of people still experienced headaches one year later.
Headaches are usually grouped into one of three categories:
- Head/neck/shoulder pain: This is usually caused by disks pressing on nerves in the neck or stretched muscles.
- Migraine-like pain: This is thought to be caused by stretched or twisted veins and arteries carrying blood to and from the brain.
- Stabbing-like pain: Sometimes referred to as “ice pick” headaches they are usually thought to be caused by an injury to the trigeminal nerves
Treatment and recovery
Sometimes the underlying cause of the headaches can be treated surgically. But often the problem cannot be cured and treatment focusses on pain management.
A physical therapist may be able to provide exercises or massages to manage head/neck/shoulder pain.
Medications can also be used for pain management. Be sure to speak to your doctor before you start taking routine dosages of over-the-counter painkillers. Some people find that wearing dark sunglasses when it is bright out helps them avoid the onset of headaches.
Sometimes brain injuries can cause challenges in completing day-to-day tasks. Among countless other processes, our brain controls our sense of visual organization. If this part of the brain is damaged you can have problems with previously simple tasks.
What this means is that sometimes the most significant effects of a brain injury are not seen until days or weeks after an accident. When the patient is at home recovering, they are not forced to deal with a great deal of stimulus or details requiring attention.
But when the brain injury survivor returns to work, suddenly they are forced to deal with a multitude of issues demanding attention and concentration and the part of our brain devoted to “multi-tasking” is simply not able to cope.
Treatment and recovery
Typical treatment involves providing brain injury survivors with training and strategies that focus on avoiding multitasking.
Before your injury, you may have previously been able to watch television while folding clothes and doing a crossword. After suffering a brain injury, you may be better off tackling each task separately. Another useful technique is to make lists. Get a daily planner and write your tasks down. By writing tasks down you can compensate for your brains new difficulties with visual organization.
Trouble sleeping is another common problem with brain injury victims. Paradoxically, sleep is one of the most important steps for recovering from a brain injury. If you are not sleeping, your brain is not being given a chance to relax and heal.
You may want to talk to your doctor about medications that can help you get back into a regular sleep regime. Some doctors will prescribe minor doses of anti-depressants to help with sleep. Most doctors will recommend that you avoid caffeine or exercise late in the evening.
Depression or mood disorders are common ailments of brain injury victims. In fact, approximately half of all people who are diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries complain of depression. Previously calm and dispassionate individuals can become overly emotional following a brain injury. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, loss of pleasure in usually pleasurable activities, feelings of worthlessness, loss of energy and suicidal thoughts.
Treatment and recovery
If you have experienced symptoms of depression following a brain injury you should talk to a professional right away. You need to understand that depression is a medical condition; you should not try to just “tough it out.” Counselling may be the best way to help you to deal with our depression. In addition, doctors can prescribe appropriate anti-depressant medication to help you deal with your mood variation.
Approximately 5-percent of brain injuries result in seizures. The more severe the brain injury the more likely it is that seizures will occur.
Treatment and recovery
Usually people who suffer from brain injuries are given anticonvulsant medication to avoid seizures, because they can cause further brain damage.
Do You Think You Need Our Help?
Legally, we are not allowed to say we are the Best Brain Injury lawyers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. No one can. You will need to judge for yourself.
But before you hire a lawyer for your brain injury claim; order your free copy of Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims or just give us a call to get some more information that may help you.
Brain Injury lawyer John McKiggan Q.C. has served on the board of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia (Halifax Chapter) and is the author of Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims an educational resource for brain injury survivors and their families.
If you or someone in your family has suffered a traumatic brain injury, you can call brain injury lawyer John McKiggan Q.C. toll free at (902) 423-2050 or contact us online for a free consultation.