Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries

treating-traumatic-brain-injuriesIf you’ve ever dealt with a traumatic brain injury, you’re well aware of how frustrating the aftermath and recovery process can be. Traumatic brain injuries are difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult to treat. A traumatic brain injury that occurs because of a slip and fall accident or auto accident can have long-lasting implications.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1.5 million Americans annually suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Of these, 85,000 patients suffer long-term disabilities. Fortunately, scientists and researchers are studying a variety of potential treatments that will hopefully better cure traumatic brain injuries.

Understanding Chronic Pain After TBI

Scientists have long struggled to understand why chronic pain occurs after a traumatic brain injury. Studies have indicated that as many as 70% of patients suffer from posttraumatic headaches six months after their traumatic brain injury. For 40% of patients, these headaches last over a year.

Karen-Amanda Irvine, PhD said that, “It is difficult to say without further research exactly how likely it is that a patient will experience pain after TBI” and that “If a patient with TBI has been diagnosed with chronic pain, it is difficult to estimate how long they may experience it and whether it will resolve.”

However, some progress may have been made toward identifying a cause. Irvine said, “Both clinical investigations and animal studies have suggested that dysfunction in the brain and spinal cord contribute to chronic pain after TBI. Specifically, descending neural connections from the brain to the spinal cord, which normally inhibit pain circuits, become dysfunction after TBI and contribute to pain.”

Regardless, it’s obvious that more research needs to be conducted before scientists have a true understanding of TBI. Better understanding the causes of chronic pain will help scientists and doctors find treatments more certain to help the healing process.

Observational Studies To Better Understand TBI Symptoms

Recently, a European observational study known as the Collaborative European NeuroTrauma Effectiveness Research in Traumatic Brain Injury completed its data-collection stage. The study collected data from 4,500 patients in 20 European countries. The study also compiled basic data from 26,000 other patients.
Taking a detailed, scientific approach could help scientists better diagnose and cure traumatic brain injuries. As the Lancet Neurology Commission recently wrote, “Advances in genomics, blood biomarkers, MRIs, and pathophysiological monitoring, combined with informatics to integrate data from multiple sources” could be used to help better understand traumatic brain injuries.

The study is not only concerned about TBI in Europe but around the world. They estimate that TBI costs those in the United States over $60 billion each year. As scientists analyze the data they recently finished collecting, there will surely be positive news concerning potential TBI treatments. The study has already identified 12 ways in which TBI prevention, quality of care, and clinical research could be improved.

Using Music To Help Heal TBIs

At the United States Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, service members have recently been trying a new form of therapy to help them heal from their traumatic brain injuries. The base offers a Creative Forces music therapy program, thanks to a partnership between the Department of Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Creative Forces program began in April 2017. The results of the program are being tracked to see if art-based interventions can be used an effective treatment for traumatic brain injuries. As a part of the program, trained musical therapists work with their patients to stimulate movement, speech, and cognitive emotions. Currently, the music therapy program is responsible for helping 30 patients recover from their traumatic brain injury.

Army Staff Sargent Sean Young has been active in a music therapy group at the base. He said, “I joined the music therapy group after finding out about it from the TBI clinic. With TBI, I started losing memory and overall comprehension, but with music therapy, I’m able to play the guitar and remember riffs without thinking about it.” He also added, “Music therapy helps with more than just my memory; it helps with my mood too. On days when I’m in a bad mood, playing the guitar is a great way to change that.”


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