Neck braces/collars are designed to keep the head relatively still especially when you are recovering from a physical injury. There are different types of these braces – ranging from the nearly-rigid kind to the simple wraparound model. Whichever one you wear will depend on the neck pain, as well as what caused it.
About Neck Braces/Collars
Also referred to as a cervical collars, neck braces are typically used to allow healing by relieving neck pain and immobilizing the head. One common use for these collars is for neck injuries that were sustained during a motor car accident. According to a recent study, more than nearly two thirds of the victims in the million plus cases of whiplash will develop neck pain, and need neck braces/collars.
Why Use Neck Braces/Collars
So, when, where and why are neck braces/collars used? There are 3 main reasons why you might be required to wear one. These include:
1. Pain Relief
The most common reason to wear neck braces is to relieve pain. The brace will help your neck to support the overall weight of your head. By so doing, it will give the soft tissues in the neck a chance to heal and recover from pain.
2. Bone Alignment
In the same way, you might be required to get neck braces/collars after you have undergone spinal neck surgery. The braces will keep the bones in your neck properly aligned to allow for faster healing.
If you have been involved in a serious accident, your doctor may put a collar on you as a precautionary measure until they evaluate whether there are other possible injuries on or around your neck.
Anyway, neck braces/collars are designed to do any or all of the following:
Immobilize the spine to allow for faster healing
Stabilize the injured body parts
More on Neck Collars
Neck collars are sometimes call orthotics. They are typically made from a wide variety of materials, such as molded plastic, foam rubber and elastic nylon/cotton. They are mostly applied by orthotists, who are medical professionals specializing in the creation of custom-made braces, the adjusting of their fit, and the provision of tips for proper wear and comfort.
When you have been asked to wear a neck brace, it is essential that you follow the specific instructions from your doctor. Always wear them the way and for the duration the doctor recommended – paying especial attention to the performance of such activities as sleeping and showing.
Types of Neck Braces
There are two main types of neck braces/collars: rigid and soft.
a) Soft Cervical Collars
These are typically made from thick foam rubber which has then been covered up in cotton. Soft neck braces/collars are used to provide support to the neck, as well as the controlling of pain after injuries like whiplash.
b) Rigid Cervical Collars
Rigid braces, on the other hand, are made using molded plastic. They also have removable padded liners divided into 2 pieces – a back and a front piece. The two pieces are then fastened together using Velcro. Rigid neck braces/collars are used to restrict the neck from moving during surgery (e.g. fusion) or from a fracture. The most common are the Miami J collar and the Philadelphia collar.
Wearing Neck Braces
You need to understand how your neck braces/collars work before you leave the hospital. As you will learn from your doctor, it is vital that you wear the brace all the time – even when you are sleeping. This is unless the surgeon instructs otherwise. You will also be required to wear the neck braces/collars until your neck and spine are fused or healed. This may take anywhere from 4 weeks to around 4 to 6 months.
To apply your brace, follow these instructions:
Lie flat on your bed
Slide the front half of the neck brace up the chest wall until it is firmly located under your chin
Where required, attach the elastic strap on the collar behind your neck and round to the other side
Apply the back half of your collar into the proper position around your neck
Fasten the straps tightly and firmly
Over and above everything else, your neck braces/collars will seriously restrict your ability to move as you normally do. For instance, you will no longer be able to see your feet, meaning you need to take extra care while working. You should also avoid extreme twisting and bending of the spine. Use your leg and arm muscles to keep your neck and spine in proper alignment. Finally, follow the instructions from your doctor or physical therapist about using neck braces/collars.
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