Physical Problems After Brain Injury

Injury to the brain can affect other parts of the body. As a result, patients may have little or no control over their bodies. Muscles may weaken, tighten, or twitch. Patients may develop sensory problems, problems speaking, hand-eye coordination difficulties, and other problems. Some patients may also have physical injuries that occurred along with the brain injury.

Woman lying on table. Health care provider is bending her leg.

Improving posture and motion

Physical therapists help patients regain movement and strength. Improving posture and range-of-motion exercises improve movement. In addition, they help prepare patients to do tasks. For instance, a patient may work on lifting an arm above the head. This may help the patient dress more easily.

You can help

  • Show interest. Ask the therapist how you can help

  • Remind the person to use good posture.

  • Make sure an affected arm or leg is supported in the proper position.

Reducing swallowing problems

If a person has trouble swallowing, a speech therapist may help a patient increase muscle control in the face, mouth, and throat. The patient may also learn to turn or hold the head in a position that makes swallowing easier and safer.

You can help

  • Check with a team member before bringing in food or drink. If the person has a swallowing problem, he or she may be on a special diet.

  • Limit distractions during meals.

Reducing muscle and joint problems

Damage to the brain may tighten muscles or tendons (contracture). Sometimes an injury causes spasms that jerk or twist affected muscles (spasticity). Range-of-motion or stretching exercises may help control these problems. Sometimes casts or splints are used to hold a joint in proper position. Over time, this may relax the muscle. Sometimes surgery is needed to release tight tissue. If you are diagnosed with spasticity, you may benefit from taking medicines that will help relax the muscles.

You can help

  • Make sure your loved one does any prescribed exercises or stretches daily.

  • Be sure the splint is on when it needs to be.

Controlling seizures

If too many signals flood the brain, a seizure may occur. Medicines may control these episodes. Keep in mind that if a patient has multiple, unprovoked seizures, he or she should be evaluated for epilepsy.

You can help

If your loved one has a seizure:

  • Help the person into a safe position. Make sure your loved one will not fall or hit his or her head.

  • Do not restrain the person or put anything in his or her mouth.

  • Tell a team or staff member.


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