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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brain Injury: On the road to recovery

"I am at the 5 months milestone point in my recovery programme.  I have made incredible progress considering the circumstances and I am sure the supplements have been a great help.  I also want to acknowledge you for the ‘miracle’ you worked on my knee.  The difference is amazing.  To think I had been in what seemed like a no improvement zone for 5 months."
(Permission granted to reproduce this portion of her email)
During the first few months following a brain injury, recovery happens almost by default. Progress is fast.  Optimism and expectations can be high.  However; this optimism may gradually be replaced with frustration because it is the regaining of the last 20%, then 10% of potential function when the real work begins.  Recovery slows with further gains sometimes being painfully slow and sometimes barely perceptible.  At the same time, medical specialist and rehabilitation services tend to lose interest and gradually fall away or are deliberately withdrawn, due to lack of funding for ongoing services.  The focus of medical resources is on acute cases.

There is little more than token recognition within medical services of the critically important role of medical nutrition in the recovery process following severe trauma and physical wasting from weeks of being confined to hospital.  A healthy body, including brain, is not conjured out of thin air.  The brain and the rest of the traumatised body require nutrient rich food from which to rebuild a strong and vigorous body and mind.  This includes some specific supplementing to make up for what can be large nutrient deficits, as well as to give a rich supply of special nutrients that are known to enhance brain function and brain repair.

The person who I have quoted from for this article fell off her bicycle, suffering a serious brain injury, including paralysis of facial muscles.  Her partner approached me at about four months of her recovery because recovery had slowed.  An old knee injury had flared up to the extent she was in considerable pain and having difficulty walking. 

This is more or less what I recommended:
  • A variety of nutritional supplements that are known to reduce oxidative stress in the brain and assists with nerve function and repair.  These included but were not restricted to  ICL Reparen, ICL Memax and Coenzyme Q-10.
  • Whey protein to be taken in small amounts over each day.  Protein is essential for the restoration of lean tissue and strength and the production of hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Balance and coordination exercises, including getting out in the sun and striding using Nordic Walking Poles. Balance and Coordination training can be as delightful as dancing lessons!  Strength work with machines as typically practiced in a gym are mostly a waste of effort in the case of brain  injury.  Rewiring the damaged brain is best facilitated with repetitive invigorating exercises done outdoors and in social settings that require balance and coordination, communication and cooperation.  Sitting isolated on an exercycle, or pumping weights while half asleep on a machine does little to improve balance and coordination.  It is hardly stimulating for the brain.
One thing to bear in mind is that a person recovering from a brain injury may tire very quickly and become grumpy and argumentative.  While it is important they be physically and mentally challenged on a daily basis, this must be balanced with plenty of quality rest time.  Energy levels and tolerances may fluctuate enormously from one day to the next.  Good nutrition, time and lots and lots of patience will see a gradual improvement.

The knee injury was an interesting one:  The Orthopaedic Consultant advised that there may be cartilage damage from the old injury and surgery might be required.  What I did to her knee was ridiculously simple: I expertly rubbed the side of her knee for several minutes!  There was an inflammation of the adductor tendon where is wraps around the medial point of the knee to insert into the tibial plateau.  This was causing referred pain and tightening of the knee capsule.  One treatment gave near complete relief.  Better than expensive knee surgery any day!

For more information about how this knee treatment was done, here is an article about this injury and how to treat it.

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