Brain Injury Exercises

by Anna-Sofie Hickson

About Anna-Sofie Hickson

Anna-Sofie Hickson is a freelance writer with six years of writing experience. She writes for "LIVESTRONG Quarterly" magazine and contributes to various military publications. She is a certified personal trainer and holds a degree in English and psychology from Franciscan University. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas.



Traumatic brain injury is a result of damage to the brain due to a violent blow to the head. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the degree of injury can range from momentary loss of consciousness, headache, disorientation and dizziness to severe symptoms from acute damage: recurring vomiting, convulsions, slurred speech, numbness or weakness and extreme agitation. Treatment usually combines physical and occupational therapy in which the patient relearns daily tasks.

Task Repetition

Retraining a TBI patient to perform simple daily tasks may be the first and most important part of therapy, says Christopher Munsey of "Monitor on Psychology." The patient may have no motivation or ability to get out of bed in the morning, so it is important to encourage the repetition of daily duties such as getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed and eating breakfast--vital activities the patient should be able to accomplish. Succeeding in these basic achievements gives the patient the confidence to progress in more demanding or strenuous physical and mental activities. The Brain Injury Recovery Network says that occupational therapists attempt to replicate everyday tasks using household items to retrain the patient on proper usage while identifying areas of weakness.

Cognitive Retraining

Practicing cognitive retraining helps restore a patient's ability to think, perceive and reason. The American Brain Tumor Association compares cognitive retraining to rebuilding a weakened muscle through exercise, improving a patient's attention, concentration, memory, organization, perception, judgment and/or problem-solving abilities. Therapists may present patients with a workbook of puzzles or game cards to stimulate memory and improve multi-tasking. The ABTA suggests involving patients in activities that require organizational skills, such as placing a takeout order from a restaurant as it requires making specific plans, accounting for details and remaining focused on the task. Additionally, the ABTA recommends giving the patient a message and asking her to recount it to a different person at the end of the day.

Balance and Range of Motion

Exercise aids oxygen flow and blood circulation to the brain, improving the brain's ability to function. Physical therapists work with TBI patients to improve range of motion, muscle flexibility and strength. According to the Brain Injury Recovery Network, physical therapists can begin working on a patient's range of motion even if she is unconscious; this prevents the muscles and tendons from tensing up and shortening. Using exercise balls can improve a patient's balance, movement and range of motion by targeting different muscle groups. A therapist may have the patient stand in close proximity to a wall and walk the ball up as far as she's able before bringing it back down. If a patient is unable to stand alone, she may use a walker to stabilize herself as she practices moving forward or balancing on one foot.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or