A neck brace, also known as a neck brace or C-collar, is used to support your spinal cord and head. These collars are a common treatment option for neck injuries, neck surgery and certain neck pain.
There are different types of neck braces. Which one you need depends on the type of neck injury you have or the underlying cause of your neck pain.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of neck braces and the potential side effects, especially when worn for long periods of time. If you would like to learn how to use a neck brace for sleeping or bathing, we have information on that as well.
The purpose of a neck brace is to support your neck and spinal cord and to limit the movement of your neck and head. They are usually used for short periods of time while you recover from an injury, surgery or pain.
Some conditions that may require the use of a neck brace include.
● General neck pain or stiffness. A neck brace may help reduce pressure on the muscles of the neck.
● Nerve compression. Neck braces are occasionally used to relieve pressure on the nerves in the neck.
● Cervical spondylosis. A neck brace may temporarily relieve pain caused by whiplash - an age-related condition caused by wear and tear on the cartilage and bones of the neck.
● Whiplash and trauma. If you are involved in a car accident or suffer another type of injury, such as a fall, a neck brace can protect your neck and prevent further injury.
● Neck surgery. A neck brace helps prevent injuries after surgery by limiting rotation as well as side to side and back and forth motion.
There are two types of neck braces, soft and hard. Soft collars are usually made of materials such as felt, foam or rubber. They fit snugly around your neck and sit under your chin. Some doctors may prescribe them to temporarily relieve moderate neck pain.
Soft collars are unlikely to help with more serious neck injuries.
A study of credible sources looked at the use of soft neck braces in 50 whipping patients. They found that soft collars reduced motion by an average of more than 17%. The researchers concluded that this was not enough to provide sufficient immobilization to produce clinical benefit.
Hard collars are usually made of plexiglass or plastic. They are more likely to restrict head rotation and side to side movement than softer collars. They usually have a chin support that allows the muscles in your neck to relax.
Hard neck braces are usually used for severe neck pain, spinal fractures and traumatic injuries.
While a neck brace can help support and protect your neck in the short term, research credible source studies suggest that long-term use of a neck brace may lead to weakening and stiffness of the neck muscles.
In the case of an acute injury, this is largely unavoidable. However, if you are dealing with moderate neck pain, you may want to minimize the amount of time you wear the collar or consult with your physician about alternative treatments.
In recent years, many medical professionals have discouraged the use of neck braces in the management of traumatic injuries. This change in opinion is largely due to credible sources of safety concerns and a lack of research showing beneficial health outcomes from the use of neck braces.
Some of the safety concerns for traumatic injuries include potential respiratory obstruction, elevated cerebral pressure, and credible sources of jugular venous blood pressure.
If you need to wear a neck brace, your healthcare provider may give you specific instructions on what you should and should not do while wearing it.
In general, when wearing a neck brace, it is best to.
● Avoid sitting in a soft, low chair. This can affect your posture and put extra pressure on your neck.
● Move rather than rest or sit too much. Gentle exercise, such as walking, can help prevent stiff neck muscles. Stiff muscles may prolong your recovery time.
● Focus on good posture. Try not to be listless or hunched over. Keep your back straight, shoulders back, head straight, and ears on your shoulders.
● Make sure your collar is snug, but comfortable. If the collar is not tight enough, it may not provide the support you need, which could lead to further pain or injury. If it is too loose, it may rub against your skin and cause irritation or blisters.
● Avoid lifting or carrying heavy objects. Also avoid strenuous activities, such as running or other high-impact sports.
● Always wear your collar, except when cleaning or as directed by your healthcare provider.
Bathing is usually easier than showering while wearing a neck brace.
You can shower as usual, but it is important to keep your neck brace dry and away from water. Placing plastic wrap around the collar may help keep it dry.
If you do shower, you may find that using a handheld showerhead helps reduce neck flexion and movement.
Here are some tips for sleeping with a neck brace.
● Make sure your mattress provides good support. A mattress that is too soft may not provide the support you need for your neck.
● Try to keep your neck in a neutral position and do not bend forward, backward, or to the side.
● Do not sleep in a twisted position. Try to keep your neck aligned with your body.
● Try sleeping on your back with a thin pillow. Using an extra pillow can put extra pressure on your neck.
● To get out of bed, first gently roll to your side. Then, swing your legs to the side of the bed and push upward with your arms.
It is important to clean your collar daily to prevent bacterial growth. Infrequent collar cleaning can cause skin irritation if bacteria are allowed to grow.
You can wash most soft collars in the sink with warm water and mild soap, then dry the collar. Do not use harsh soaps, detergents or bleach. These may cause skin reactions.
You can clean the hard collar by replacing the dirty pad and rinsing the front and back panels.
When you put the collar brace back on, it is important that you wear it correctly. If the collar is not tight enough, it may cause skin friction, which can lead to pressure sores and irritation.
The length of time you need to wear a neck brace depends on your specific situation.
For moderate neck pain that is not caused by a sudden injury, it is usually recommended that you do not wear a neck brace for more than a week. Prolonged use of the collar can cause the neck muscles to harden and weaken.
If you are wearing a neck brace due to severe neck pain or a sudden injury, discuss with your doctor how long you will need to wear it.
A neck brace is used to support and protect your neck and spinal cord. These types of collars are often used to treat neck injuries, neck surgery and certain neck pains.
There are two types of neck braces, soft and hard. Soft neck braces are typically used to treat moderate neck pain, while hard neck braces are typically used to treat severe neck pain, spinal fractures and injuries.
Although neck braces may be a useful tool for short-term treatment, studies have shown that wearing a neck brace for extended periods of time may lead to weakening and stiffness of the neck muscles. So please be careful to control the amount of time you wear your neck brace.
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