Using a neck brace or collar can be part of a treatment option for individuals dealing with a neck injury, pain, and recovery. Cervical-neck spinal conditions can go from mild to debilitating if left untreated and could progress to chronic pain. Whiplash and abnormal cervical lordosis, which is an unnatural curvature of the spine, can happen from looking down at a phone too long, known as text-neck. These are common but different neck disorders that can be helped with a neck brace.
Being prescribed a neck brace depends on the severity of the pain symptoms. Does it present with or without upper back pain, radiate into the shoulders, cause headaches/migraine? These details will help a doctor or chiropractor figure out the best treatment option. If the patient can benefit then a neck brace, also called a cervical collar or cervical orthosis could be used.
Fortunately, spinal surgery is rarely necessary. There are plenty of non-surgical treatment options that can help manage and reduce neck pain. A neck brace or collar could be part of a treatment plan that includes:
- Physical therapy
- Medications – over-the-counter and prescription if necessary
The treatment plan will be based on the outcome of:
- Physical examination
- Neurological examination
- Other imaging tests
- Severity of symptoms
These combined will confirm a diagnosis with the treatment focusing on:
- Neck stabilization
- Pain management
- Advanced healing
- Early mobilization
There are a variety of soft and rigid neck braces available to help manage different cervical spine conditions. The type of brace prescribed is based on the diagnosis and treatment plan. Soft neck braces are flexible and offer the greatest range of motion. Rigid collars are for stricter immobilization/stabilization.
Stabilization refers to immobilizing the head and neck. Limiting or preventing motion helps to support the head while reducing weight from the cervical spine. Two of the most common neck pain disorders are whiplash and poor posture.
Whiplash is a hyperflexion and hyperextension neck injury. It is caused when the neck quickly, forcefully and swiftly whips forward and backward. Whiplash injuries most commonly happen from auto accidents, work, personal, and sports injuries.
Whiplash symptoms are considered sprains and strains. This is when ligaments, in this case, those of the neck, and the muscles are stretched or torn. These include:
- Neck pain
- Muscle spasms
- Headaches that start in the neck
However, all of the symptoms can radiate into the head and upper back. This is where a doctor could recommend a soft cervical collar as part of a treatment plan. This could be in conjunction with muscle relaxants and physical therapy. Soft collars provide neck support to help reduce soft tissue inflammation and the pain forty-eight to seventy-two hours after the injury.
Soft neck braces are usually made of foam and covered with cotton or other easily washable, comfortable wearable material. The brace wraps around the neck and is secured with Velcro straps. Be aware that over-using a neck brace can happen. A doctor will explain further and will prescribe/encourage performing daily motion exercises, and stretching exercises, as soon as the patient is able after a whiplash injury.
Lordosis means the normal forward curve in the neck. However, the normal curve can change negatively with time when the head regularly bends forward past the shoulders. An example is looking down at your phone. Most of us spend hours a day looking down at a phone pad, etc. This causes significant strain on the neck. The human head weighs around 12 pounds. This weight increases to about 60 pounds when the head and neck are extended forward and bent down.
A constantly increased load on the spine can lead to massive stress to the bones, ligaments, and muscles with the potential change in the normal curve and chronic neck pain. Text neck is another spinal disorder that a neck brace can help treat. Depending on the severity of the pain and injury a rigid neck brace or collar could be used.
All neck braces offer some degree of head and neck support. Another type of rigid neck brace has adjustable features that were developed to treat forward head posture caused by poor posture. This brace is called the Cervigard Forward Head Posture Neck Collar. It supports while correcting the alignment of the head and neck. Regular use can gradually restore the normal curvature by correcting head and neck posture.
Doctors recommend the brace be worn for 20 minutes a day or several hours, depending on the severity of pain and injury. The process of correcting the deformation can be compared to straightening teeth with braces, aligners, etc. This retrains the muscles and corrects the abnormal soft tissue tightness that develops from the condition.
If a doctor prescribes a brace, follow their instructions for how to wear the neck brace. This will ensure the pain reduces and alleviates, while at the same time reducing the risk of the negative effects of overuse. Ask the doctor or chiropractor how to care for the brace.
Sprain/Strain Neck Treatment Chiropractic Care
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