After a Traumatic Brain Injury: The Impact of Physical Impairments

For a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor, life is forever changed. Not only does a brain injury cause many neurological and emotional issues, but a TBI can lead to physical impairments. While some emotional and mental changes may take time to detect, there’s no hiding when a physical change occurs.

Physical Limitations: Common Side Effects of Serious Brain Injuries

It is very apparent when someone starts walking with a limp or shuffle when he or she never used to. Additionally, it is obvious when someone has a hard time using his or her hands due to the onset of weakness and poor coordination in the extremities. Sadly, these—as well as many other deficits—are all physical effects of traumatic brain injuries.

While some physical limitations can be remedied through surgery and physical therapy, other physical impairments result in permanent changes for TBI survivors. Some of the common physical effects of a brain injury include:

  • Change in muscle strength and coordination. When a traumatic brain injury occurs, it can cause the brain to lose control of the muscular system, which can lead to hypertonicity (when the extremities feel tight and stiff) or hypotonicity (when the limbs feel heavy and limp). As a result, muscle stiffness, weakness, and muscle paralysis can occur, which can lead to clumsiness and poor coordination.
  • Change in movement. A TBI can impact the way a person moves because damage to a certain area of the brain can cause uncontrolled, jerky, or slow movements. Also, when damage to the motor areas of the brain takes place, a person’s walking can be altered, resulting in a limp or other change.
  • Change in appearance. Brain damage can alter someone’s posture or bearing due to the muscles being affected that control the head, neck, and trunk.

Some of the other physical effects of a severe brain injury that cannot be seen from the outside but are constant physical reminders to TBI victims include:

  • Pain. When brain tissue is damaged, a person can suffer severe headaches and chronic pain.
  • Fatigue. People living with traumatic brain injuries often suffer from poor sleep and constant tiredness. This is because an injured brain goes into overtime, causing a TBI victim to experience constant fatigue.
  • Loss of sensation. Brain injuries often impact people’s senses—hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. For example, when the sense of feeling is gone, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening as someone might not feel an injury or know when something is too hot to the touch.

TBI survivors and their families need to be aware of the many physical changes following brain injuries in order to get the necessary treatment and support. If you know someone with a brain injury, we encourage you to share this information with his family and friends so they know what physical changes to expect. You can do this easily by clicking on one of your favorite social media icons to the left of the screen.