Subthreshold Exercise for Concussion Recovery

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Subthreshold Exercise for Concussion Recovery

Subthreshold exercise, often referred to as submaximal or sub-threshold aerobic exercise, plays a crucial role in the recovery of individuals with concussions. This form of exercise is designed to be below the intensity level that triggers or exacerbates concussion symptoms. It offers several benefits in promoting recovery and restoring overall well-being. There is more evidence to suggest that subthreshold exercise supervised by a trained health professional is appropriate and beneficial in the first 2 weeks of management, which has traditionally been reserved for absolute rest. 

How to Determine the Exercise Threshold

Our physios use the modified Buffalo Concussion Treadmill test to determine what a safe level of intensity is for each patient.

Benefits of Subthreshold Exercise in Concussion Recovery:

Improved Blood Flow and Oxygen Delivery: Subthreshold exercise helps increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, which is essential for healing and recovery. It promotes the delivery of nutrients to the brain cells, aiding in their repair and regeneration.

Reduced Inflammation: Moderate exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on the body, which can be particularly beneficial for those with concussions. Reducing inflammation in the brain can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with concussions.

Enhanced Mood and Reduced Anxiety: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals. This can help combat the emotional disturbances often associated with concussions, such as anxiety and depression.

Improved Sleep: Many individuals with concussions struggle with sleep disturbances. Regular, controlled exercise can help regulate sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep.

Cognitive Benefits: Subthreshold exercise can stimulate cognitive functions such as memory and attention, which are often affected by concussions.

Guidelines for Subthreshold Exercise in Concussion Recovery:

Consult a Healthcare Professional: Always seek guidance from a healthcare provider, preferably one with experience in concussion management, before beginning any exercise program. They can help determine the appropriate level of exercise and tailor it to your individual needs.

Gradual Progression: Start with very light, low-impact exercises, such as walking or stationary cycling. Gradually increase the intensity and duration as your symptoms allow.

Monitor Symptoms: It's crucial to closely monitor concussion symptoms before, during, and after exercise. If any symptoms worsen or new ones appear, stop the exercise immediately and consult your healthcare provider.

Individualization: Concussions are highly individual, and the appropriate level of exercise varies from person to person. What might be subthreshold for one individual could trigger symptoms in another. Work closely with your healthcare provider to determine your safe exercise threshold.

Rest and Recovery: Allow for ample rest between exercise sessions. Recovery is a key component of healing and pushing too hard can hinder progress.

Subthreshold exercise can be a valuable part of concussion recovery when applied with care and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It's a tool to promote healing and restore physical and cognitive functions while minimising the risk of symptom exacerbation.

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