Colorful representation of swirling brain

Recovering from Concussion: How Your Brain Is Like a Thermostat

Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

Hannah Zajac, PT, DPT, NCS is a physical therapist at UVMHN-CVMC.

One way to understand the effects of concussion is to think of your brain as a thermostat.

In your home, the thermostat regulates the heating/cooling system, turning it on or off as needed to keep the air within a comfortable range.

In your body, the brain maintains the steady internal conditions of various processes (homeostasis) by changing many factors within cells, particularly the balance between sodium and potassium.

In concussion, brain cells leak a tremendous amount of potassium and take in sodium and calcium, causing an imbalance.

The effect of this imbalance is similar to opening several windows on a January morning with the thermostat at 68 degrees. The brain must expend much more energy to maintain homeostasis as it tries to pump sodium and calcium out of the cells and pull potassium back in.

During recovery, every task can feel like another open window. You may feel like you need more rest and that it doesn’t take much to make you feel tired again.

As you heal from concussion, those windows begin to close, allowing the brain to use less energy in performing its everyday functions.

No two concussions are the same. Everyone recovers at different rates because we all have a different physiology.

If you’re struggling with prolonged recovery from concussion, reach out to your healthcare provider. A referral to rehabilitation services may be appropriate. Learn more about concussion therapy at CVMC.