Can My Traumatic Brain Injury Self Heal? Examples and Explanations
Can A Human Brain Repair Itself By Itself After a Traumatic Brain Injury?
The short answer is, it depends. But sometimes your body's organs, including your brain, can heal all by themselves with proper love, care, and treatment. I am attorney Michael Ehline, president of Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. As part of my injury law practice, I work with healers and other experts in all facets of healing medicine and science.
Below I will provide some examples and explanations of self-healing in popular culture, along with clinical terminology and research by other brain injury experts in this fascinating field of study. Having recently lost my father from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma onset by Agent Orange exposure as a USMC 0848 during the Vietnam Conflict, I learned about environmental issues leading to death and somatic mutations. Besides that, I know a lot about medical procedures and red tape. With years of experience as a brain injury lawyer, I am an expert in the field of law and medicine.
First, traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are severe medical conditions that require careful medical monitoring. In clinical terms, it’s clear that TBI causes excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, edema (water on the brain), neuroinflammation, and cell death such as the killing off of vital brain cells.
Your Brain is Like a Raw Egg?
Yes. To better understand the TBI, compare your head to an ordinary chicken egg. So for example, your brain is the yolk, the fluid around it is the egg white, and its hard shell is the cranium or skull. Imagine shaking a raw egg violently, over a few seconds.
Try it. As you will note, you can actually break open the yolk, even though the egg's shell never cracked open. And the same goes for your brain. Even though your cranium may remain intact, a physical injury occurs because your brain was displaced and badly bruised, despite being in its protective cocoon of cerebral spinal fluid. It's easy to see how the frontal lobe can become damaged in a rear-end car accident when you understand the delicate brain.
So to understand whether your brain can heal itself after cell death, you need to understand physiology, psychology, ancient and modern medicine, and even a little bit of faith. You also need to understand the fantastic role that proper parenting and positive thinking play in strengthening the human mind from childhood into the Golden Years. You only need to look as far as former MMA star and grade 3 diffuse axonal brain injury victim, Matt Hughes (discussed below), to understand this life lesson - "never give up."
A Famous Case of a Celebrity Traumatic Brain Injury - What We Can Learn About Not Quitting.
Famous cases of TBI in the news include #GOAT, Matt Hughes. Hughes suffered severe cognitive and bodily injuries in a train crash, and he has made a decent improvement, at least based upon what we see of his physical therapy treatments on Instagram and Youtube. Hughes, a former collegiate wrestler, and all-around positive thinker, embodies that All American, "Never Quit" persona. Learn more about the Matt Hughes brain injury here.
So I am suggesting that people trying to heal, follow his positive vibrations on Instagram for hope and motivation. Psychologically, feeling sorry for yourself only makes you sicker, and impedes healing.
Treating TBI Symptoms and Healing.
There are many ways a body can heal itself. Ancient medicine relied upon a lot of hocus pocus, but a lot of it worked. And most of our modern medicine stems from the discoveries of old. Modernly, pharmacies compound, and concentrate substances to either help the body heal itself or mask the symptoms of things like pain when the body is in the process of healing, or unable to heal at all, for example. Examples of medicines designed to mask or cover up pain symptoms would include Oxycodone, or Tylenol, Codeine 3.
Also, the ingestion of non-prescription herbs, such as Ginko Biloba, has long been touted as methods of improving long and even short term memory. Some natural products like Cumidin allegedly help prevent inflammation and pain. After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones.
But because repair takes so long, degenerative conditions such as motor-neuron, or Lou Gehrig’s disease (Also known as ALS) cannot be cured modernly. However, we do know that stem cells, discussed below, have shown promise in clinical trials in speeding up the damaged brain's healing process. But yes, amazingly, much of the brain will heal itself following a TBI.
- Inflammation and Healing.
Healers have known for centuries that inflammation leads to all sorts of problems, even cancer. One thing medicine has discovered is that a blow to the head or hard shaking causes the body to produce chemical healing fluid in the skull cavity. This fluid is mainly white blood cells, which is a substance that signals cells at the damaged location to divide and grow. Consequently, this brain swelling process can help rebuild tissue and help repair the injured area.
Prolotherapy, and Plasma Replacement Therapy, are ancient methods designed to create a mini injury to make the body repair its tissue, creating healing collagen. In all cases, when things go well after the wound heals, the inflammation ceases, and the white blood cells padding the injury location dissipate.
Understanding The Problem of Hydrocephalus and TBI.
So inflammation is not a bad thing because it's your body's way of creating a cushion of space around the wound. And this is to send in more cells and help the body heal itself. But with the brain, it's a catch 22. The injured brain, with its delicate brain stem, and soft gray matter, needs to and is trying to heal after suffering a TBI.
But too much inflammation in your brain can become chronic, and it can also lead to a condition called "water on the brain." The scientific term is Hydrocephalus. Hydro is the Latin term for fluid, or water. Sometimes fluid build-up and swelling in the skull is so bad; it can damage DNA, lead to Chron's disease, and worsen a brain injury. For children, in particular, it can mean developmental conditions, as well as intellectual impairments.
But no matter your age, water on the brain can also mean physical impairments due to a lack of signals properly flowing down the brain's stem into the spine and limbs. Also, hearing and vision can be lost or reduced from any type of brain injury. So to recap, your brain's secondary inflammation response remains a highly complex altered cascade of mixed neurotransmitter responses and cellular changes.
- Drug Therapy to Get Inflammation Right - Clinical Trials.
Clinical trials are studies conducted on control groups of patients to test new theories of medical care and treatment. Concerning TBI, trials are in process for conditions like reduction or elimination of chronic inflammation. But so far, the clinical trials dealing with TBI swelling have produced no reliable results.
- Modern and Ancient Medicine and Clinical Trials.
Modern and ancient medicine, such as Chinese acupuncture, for example, has done wonders in solving the mystery of healing a TBI. But the contemporary goal of triumphant drug therapy is to target the neural pathway, thereby inhibit inflammation without causing secondary damage.
Some modern methods of reducing inflammation and pain response include having patients ingesting aspirin, Motrin, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. But these can cause other health issues, such as thinning the blood, which can cause internal bleeding and other issues. So physicians are still working hard in the testing phase to come up with other methods of dealing with inflammation.
Because traditional Chinese treatments focus on a more holistic biological process, modern researchers understand their significance in potentially shifting those neural pathways to heal the brain. According to historical texts, over 185 years old, Chinese medicine called Xuefu Zhuyu made from 11 herbs, was prescribed as a treatment for inflammation.
And modernly, Xuefu Zhuyu has been tested on laboratory animals for healing traumatic brain injury. Using spatial memory tests, researchers discovered this herbal concoction enhances cognition. Also, there was a substantial decrease in the proteins contributing to inflammation of the brain. The bottom line is that avoiding brain injuries, to begin with, is critical. But if you can't, ancient and modern medicine can help your brain heal itself.
- What About Peptides and hGh?
We know that your thymus can secrete chemicals and hormones that can make your body fight off viruses and heal itself. And recently, we learned of clinical trials linking scorpion venom as a precursor to the body's own ability to cure some forms of brain cancer.
Off label use of hGH, or Human Growth Hormone, has long been touted as a fountain of youth, which helps the body repair skin and other tissue, as well as building leaner muscle. Some forward-thinking people are even taking off label injectable peptides like Thymosin Alpha-1 because the body, unmolested by GMOs, processed foods, and crap, has an amazing ability to act as a self-healing machine and possibly fight off COVID-19.
In other words, peptides and other chemicals don't heal you or your brain; they make the body heal itself by helping produce T-cells and other substances to promote healing. Most of all, eating right, avoiding caffeine, drugs, and alcohol, coupled with hGH, peptides, and stem cell treatments, may just be a modern fountain of healing.
Does the Brain Heal After Years of Substance Abuse?
A big problem personal injury victims face is prescription substance abuse. Opioids after multiple reconstructive surgeries, etc., can cause all kinds of issues, even vision and hearing loss. In popular culture, most of us old enough to remember conservative commentator, Rush Limbaugh, know he became addicted to pain killers after a serious personal injury to his back and spinal surgery.
According to many experts, he lost most of his hearing due to the ototoxic effect of the opioid pain killers he took. Rush's own paid physicians argue otherwise. Whatever the true cause of his deafness, he lost much of his hearing during the period he was taking heavy amounts of "Oxy." Because of this impairment, he was forced to have cochlear implant surgery to be able to hear. But even then, his voice changed considerably due to his inability to audibly regulate his speech tones. But even regular, over the counter pain drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol) two times or more per week create an increased risk of weakening or severing hearing.
Unfortunately, as shown above, specific drug abuse is irreversible when it comes to seeing and hearing, and often will require corrective surgery.
- Forming New Neural Pathways and Healing the Brain.
Although the brain, organs, and functions are not always able to regenerate, sometimes they can when the brain forms new neural pathways. And this is the process of Neuroplasticity. This fancy name has nothing to do with plastic, and everything to do brain plasticity, which is the brain’s refined capability of reorganizing or re-routing to send electrically charged neurochemical signals around to the damaged tissue. And this is a lifetime process of forming newer neural connections. And this process goes on even when a person's brain is not severely shaken or damaged.
Neuroplasticity Means Rerouting Around TBI Damage?
In a nutshell, neuroplasticity is the brain's process of forming nerve cells called neurons. And when a person bangs their head in a car crash, for example, the brain will begin the Neuroplasticity process, in response to these new realities of physical and environmental alterations. Although this is a great thing to know for people with less severe blows to the head, who are simply clouded, the brain does not always heal itself in more severe cases. But the Matt Hughes case shows that with perseverance, even a terrible brain injury can somewhat heal itself to the point of partial recovery.
To recap, brain tissue and fluids can shrink or increase in response to internal, natural, neural connection commands. The commands can be forged, refined, or weakened and severed. Most of all, any change in your brain's physical makeup can dramatically increase or decrease motor functions, balance, and memory. So using Matt Hughes as an example again. He was a grappler and a striker. But first, he was a wrestler.
So when he learned pugilism, his brain formed new “wires,” or neural pathways within his physical mind. In other words, he formed muscle memory. So like a computer hard drive, over time, he uploaded repetitive steps that his body could perform as a reflexive action. And this is one reason why aging people should take Tai Chi, Yoga, and try new things like dancing. Any of these activities can have a positive effect on the practical way we heal and offset the aging process. Letting yourself go means letting yourself die a slow and depressing death.
The "Self Healing Machine" - the Human Brain.
To recap, although we humans can't grow back a new digit like a lizard that lost its tail, our bodies are capable of remarkable clinical healing. Unfortunately, as I learned from being a VA patient myself, and watching my father suffer as a cancer patient, most doctors treat the symptoms. Fortunately, Matt Hughes found himself a great doctor. So rather than treating Hughes with a bunch of drugs alone, it is clear a combination of positive mental attitude, excellent physical therapy, his family's, and his fan's love, he stabilized his brain, and it began to repair from inside.
But it takes time. Whether or not Hughe's brain can restore his full cognitive function remains to be seen. Obviously, Matt needs to stay off tractors, and operating heavy equipment around his farm is not a good idea until he is more healed. But it's evident to me as an expert in my field of medicine and the law that his brain is compensating for lost or destroyed neurons by rerouting and those healthy neurons that remain.
- Out With the Old In With the New?
You heard right, just like when you go potty when you wake from slumber, your body ejects unneeded fluids and chemicals in its urine. And your brain is similar. But in the case of a TBI, such as a coma patient, dead cells must be filtered out of the body.
The patient's dead brain cells are no longer useful. So neurons were rerouted signals, which helped restore cognitive function. And this is a reason why a comatose patient will suddenly awake after years or months of unconsiousness.
- The Younger the Better For a TBI?
Unfortunately, as we age into adulthood, our brains become less capable of forming new neurons. But the good news is that rerouting of nerve signals is still part of your brain's adaptation to traumatic situations. But the process of altering how this information flows takes a lot more time than many people want to wait. With most adults suffering a severe head injury with loss of cognitive functions means, your brain won't regenerate neurons. But is can reroute neural connections, and make other parts of your brain perform functions lost as a result of your accident.
A good analogy is the Marines. When your rife squad get's taken out by an RPG, your officers may replace them with cooks, or admin guys to redistribute the firepower to your platoon. And this is similar to your brain's response after a TBI. True, these are not regular infantry. But in time, these troops will learn how to meld with your seasoned troops and work as a unit. In other words, the portions of your brain that have not been harmed, pick up the slack so you can carry on with your mission. Also known as the "breaking in period," this is a crucial period of physical therapy and improvement.
What Can a TBI Victim Do To Speed Up the Learning Curve?
TBI victims, especially when several sectors of the brain have received damages such as a concussion, can step up the healing process in several proven ways. The main goal is to stop the brain's condition from worsening. And failure to mitigate additional damage, or stabilize, means a future risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
To recap, a person who suffered a blow to the head was shaken too hard, or has a concussion can help the TBI healing process by:
- Sleeping and relaxing. Many of us have heard that taking a siesta is lazy and un-American. But taking a nap and going to bed early at night is crucial during the healing process. Anything that stresses or disrupts a TBI patient will only serve to diminish or prevent the healing process.
- Follow intuition. Although some hard-chargers want to get right back in the game, sometimes you have to listen to your wife, your partner, and your body. The key here is that slow and steady wins the race. Also, you have to retrain a new neurologic fire team, as discussed above.
- Diary and day in the life. Here is a big one. Short term memory is going to be a problem while your brain rewires itself. Making a video about the day in your life, as well as written documentation, can help retrain you and your mind. But it also helps create a record of your tragedy for your doctors, lawyers, and a jury.
- Try not to take illegal, prescription, and other drugs like Marijuana, or alcohol. Any substance that changes how you think or that harms short term memory only serves to harm the brain's natural healing process. But listen to your doctor.
- Nutrition. Taking supplements, coupled with nutritious foods like fish, watermelon, and even juicing, helps hydrate and energize your body as it heals.
- Stay hydrated. As noted above, hydration with lots of fluid is critical to your brain and other bodily functions.
- Stay off your computer and X-Box. Anything that interferes with or taxes your brain like bright video game screens can prevent your brain from focusing on getting well.
- Avoid sports. We don't see Matt Hughes doing MMA anymore. Especially we don't see him doing anything other than supervised activities under times conditions. Be like Matt.
- Have patience. Most of all, healing is a time-consuming process. In a way, it is akin to a break up in a relationship. No one just gets over someone they love right away. Losing part of your brain function is no different. So give it time to facilitate healing.
What Can Friends and Family Do to Assist Your TBI in Healing Itself?
Most of all, a brain injury affects feelings and emotional expressions. So a TBI victim often has multiple emotional problems, for example:
- Mood swings. Females, in particular, can relate to mood swings during their estrus periods. Now imagine this being a year-round situation. Just try and remember you are there for the victim as a friend, and try and accept their condition.
Why Do TBI Victims Suffer Mood Swings?
Mood swings are a form of emotional lability that can happen when the emotion controls in the brain ar damaged. So emotional bahevior can drastically change. Sometimes victims are not even triggered. They just start acting out for seemingly no reason, which can get confusing at times. Sometimes you may think it was you. But its really part of suffering a brain injury.
So beware that crying, laughing, and yelling can all happen out of the blue. Usually, the person cannot control these expressions of emotion.
TBI and Anxiety.
Like mood swings, being nervous can bring on feelings of anxiety, which includes symptoms of overblown nervousness. My father used to have panic attacks and agoraphobia as a result of his condition. Unfortunately, I was not prepared to deal with it and took it personally. Don't make the same mistake. Each victim is a human being and deserves to be treated with decency. Anxiety is associated with PTSD. Marines and soldiers getting blown up in a war cause a lot of TBI and PTSD.
TBI and Depression.
When someone loses their cognitive function, they lose their jobs and may even lose their spouse. So naturally, a person will feel sad and abandoned. As discussed above, try and eat right and think positively as a victim and as a caretaker. Let the body heal.
Irritable Temper Tantrums.
Most of us who have spent time around a TBI victim understand that the victims will have a short fuse and will fly off the handle quickly. But at the end of the day, significant improvement in brain healing will follow with proper love and care. As noted above, the brain is a powerful healing machine. Sometimes the injury was caused by a wrongdoer, which can make things even more frustrating. And that is why there are brain injury lawyers like Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC.
An excellent lawyer, such as one of our staff members, can help you get monetary compensation to help you on your journey to TBI healing. So if you suffered a TBI due to the fault of another person, you might be able to get money for pain and suffering, as well as past, present, and future medical and other bills. Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are standing by to discuss your unique situation and render crucial legal advice.
But don't delay. Blowing the statute of limitations can ruin your chances of getting the compensation you deserve. So call a personal injury expert now at (213) 596-9642 and learn about your rights.