HomeHealth TopicNeurological

Concussion Treatment: New Recommendations for Recovery

In this video, Steven Flanagan, MD, explains the recovery process for a concussion, and how these recommendations have changed over time.

Lauren SmithPreeti Parikh, MD
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Preeti Parikh, MD
Published on March 16, 2020

For most people who experience a concussion, symptoms are pretty mild and will improve with time without medical intervention—as long as the individual follow’s “doctor’s orders” at home.

But doctor’s orders for concussion recovery have changed over time. “When I first started doing this years and years ago, there was a feeling that rest was really important after concussion,” says Steven Flanagan, MD, chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health.

Rest is still an important component of recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury, but the recommendations are getting more nuanced. Previously, a doctor might have recommended absolute rest: staying in bed, not going to school, etc. It was all about avoiding or limiting cognitive and physical exertion. 

“We're getting away from that,” says Dr. Flanagan. “There's actually good evidence that shows that aerobic exercise that's kept below a threshold that would make your symptoms worse actually helps to speed up recovery from concussion.”

Basically, the recommendation is now more of a balance: You want to avoid excessive exertion, but you don’t want to completely avoid activity, and both extremes have been shown to slow down recovery time.

Dr. Flanagan recommends a “graded” return to exercise, school, and work. That is, to move in incremental stages until you’re back to your normal level of activity. The key is to keep activity below a threshold: If you start feeling adverse effects, such as a headache, then you may have gone too far. 

“If you do overdo the exercise a little bit, or if you do overdo the cognitive work a little bit, you haven't hurt your brain,” says Dr. Flanagan. “Just take it down a notch, and you can just go on then proceeding with your recovery.”

Additional Medical Contributors
  • Steven FlanaganDr. Flanagan is the chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health. He specializes in brain injury rehabilitation.


    Management of acute moderate and severe traumatic brain injury. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on March 6, 2020 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-acute-moderate-and-severe-traumatic-brain-injury.) 

    Traumatic brain injury: epidemiology, classification, and pathophysiology. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on March 6, 2020 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/traumatic-brain-injury-epidemiology-classification-and-pathophysiology.)

    GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

    Was this page helpful?

    Subscribe and save.Get prescription saving tips and more from GoodRx Health. Enter your email to sign up.
    By signing up, I agree to GoodRx's Terms and Privacy Policy, and to receive marketing messages from GoodRx.

    Wordmark logo (w/ dimension values)
    GoodRx FacebookGoodRx InstagramGoodRx Twitter
    Legitscript ApprovedPharmacyBBB Accredited Business
    provider image
    Welcome! You’re in GoodRx Provider Mode. Now, you’ll enjoy a streamlined experience created specifically for healthcare providers.