According to the medical conclusion of the 1999 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, neck pain is one of the most prevalent and costly health problems in the United States.
It is a complex, subjective experience with a variety of musculoskeletal causes. The good thing is, neck pain braces are available nowadays. Also known as cervical collars, they provide good support for the further treatment of neck and head injuries.
Among US residents alone, 50–70% of people will experience neck pain at least once in their lives, which is as many as one-third affected each year. About 10% suffer from occasional neck pain at any given time. General population survey results show that the one-year prevalence rate for neck and shoulder pain is between 16–18%. Meanwhile, almost 85% of all neck pain results from acute or repetitive neck injuries or chronic stresses and strain.
Although the causes of neck pain are usually known, it is often difficult to predict which patients will respond to conservative care and which patients will have persistent pain, despite several interventions.
Common Conditions That Require A Medical Cervical Neck Pain Brace
Extreme sports activities
Neck braces aren’t strictly limited to be used for immediate aid for medical injuries. They are also used by athletes to help injuries caused by extreme Motorsports such as go-kart racing, speed-boat racing and motocross. Racers include them as part of their protective gear from further accidents which could happen during the course such as whiplash.
Traumatic neck or head injuries
For clinical purposes, a neck brace is applied after a serious head or neck injury, often as a precaution. This process helps to stabilize the cervical area of the injured patient, such as the spinal cord and skull, in order to prevent further injury. It is also beneficial in reducing the possibility of spinal damage, paralysis or death.
Recovery stage post-surgery
For patients who underwent spinal neck surgery, wearing a neck brace is one of the immediate measures to be conducted post-operation procedures. It helps to immobilize the injured areas and releases stress around your neck. Neck braces cannot be removed until the healing process or post-surgery recovery stage ends as per doctor’s advice.
Whiplash and therapeutic stage
This is very helpful especially for patients who have had accidents resulting in head, neck and spinal injuries. For on-call emergency support staff, neck braces should come in handy so the victims will have immediate relief and have their delicate condition prevented from further ailments such as spinal cord alignment, whiplash and sprains.
According to the report from Ohio Medical Center, whiplash occurs when spinal tissues are damaged, and it is commonly treated with soft collar-type neck braces. Aside from neck brace, doctors normally include physical therapy and exercise in the recovery process for patients.
Tumors, disc herniation and other traumas can lead to nerve damage which can cause cervical radiculopathy. Doctors often corrected this condition with surgery in the past years. However, according to Spine Universe, more physicians are using neck braces and collars to treat cervical radiculopathy successfully, combined together with rest and exercise.
Commonly, neck braces are used for pain management purposes under the supervision of a trained physician. However, an accurate assessment cannot be done by simply wearing a neck brace to soothe out random neck pain. It is still best to seek consultation from a doctor especially when it comes to wearing them in order to be prescribed an individual treatment plan.
Different Types Of Neck Pain Braces
Before you get a neck brace, it is good to know what your best options are. Always remember that there are different types of neck braces available in the medical market. If you suffer from serious neck pain, you will require something that will help properly support your neck.
Here are the different kinds of neck pain braces which you can choose, although we advise you to get a consultation from your attending physician beforehand.
Rigid neck collars
These have hard thermoplastic support outside but it includes soft padding inside. Rigid neck collars are at a higher level than soft cervical collars and are prescribed to patients who either underwent surgical procedures or after a traumatic experience. The plastic frame measures 1/8-inch thickness.
These are padded just like the rigid neck brace and are comfortable to wear. This type has semi-rigid thermoplastic on the outside and can limit the mobility of the neck area, but supports your chin as well as your head. Semi-rigid collars are easy to use and removed either when not needed or when they should not be used.
Soft collars are used by patients who need a minimal amount of support, and to keep the neck and head still to prevent injury. This type is recommended for individuals who underwent minor surgery to fix cervical issues. It is made of foam, which gives it a soft texture. When you use a soft collar, make sure it fits around the neck as snug as possible without making it difficult for you to breathe.
Cervical Thoracic Orthosis neck support (CTO)
A CTO neck support is used to prevent movement of the upper back and spine, as well as the neck area. CTOs provide more support than rigid neck collars. A physician’s advice must be obtained first before purchasing this type of neck pain brace, as there are various styles to serve different purposes.
Halo neck support
Halo neck support is the most rigid of all neck braces. They are used by those who had serious injuries to the neck such as a cervical fracture. Doctors who specialize in orthotics recommend halo neck braces to those who have undergone spinal surgery. Also, only the physician can put this on a patient and remove it as well. The patient should never attempt to remove it on his own. The halo neck brace is not removed until the spine has healed completely.
Philadephia neck collars
Though it is made of foam, Philadelphia neck collars are very stiff and are attached using Velcro tapes on each side. This type of neck brace is used around the clock and should stay on until the patient is advised to take it off. Doctors recommend the Philadelphia neck brace for those who have upper spine fractures or cervical surgery patients.
Sterno-occipital-mandibular Immobilization Device (SOMI)
The SOMI neck braces are used to align the spine and the neck in order to fix any damage done to the neck. This is a very rigid neck brace that stops a person’s head from moving. Movement such as twisting or bending your neck is strictly prohibited when you wear SOMI neck brace. It helps the upper chest area heal and prevent any movement that can cause further injuries.
How to Use a Cervical Neck Brace
Neck braces range from simple, one-piece soft wrap-around collars up to the rigid ones with pads and supported by hard plastic. Whether you will use the soft-type or the hard-type depends solely on the recommendation of your immediate physician, considering the severity of your neck problem and the length of time you have to wear the neck brace.
Once your doctor recommends you to use one, you will be given specific instructions when it comes to wearing and aftercare. However, for general instructions, we provide a few guidelines that you can follow as you wait for your physician’s advice for your next visit.
Always look straight ahead and keep your chin up, parallel to the floor.
The neck pain brace should be snug enough that you cannot move your head freely. Also, your chin must not slide inside or stick out over the collar.
Make sure that the lower edge should rest comfortably against your body with only the padded area touching your skin.
If you have long hair or a beard, your hair should be placed outside of the neck brace.
Make sure that you can breathe comfortably. If your neck brace feels too tight, remove it and put it on again.
If it irritates your skin, put cotton padding between the collar and your skin.
Keep your skin clean and dry under the brace. Refrain from using powders or lotions as they can damage the pads inside the brace.
When you have to remove your neck brace for cleaning purposes, make sure that there are no areas of skin irritation.
The pads that touch your skin must be cleaned on a daily basis with mild soap and water. If your neck brace has plastic supports, include them in the cleaning process at least once a week with a wet towel and mild soap. Do not use harsh detergents for the plastic support.
Remember, the neck brace is a temporary device to help your neck heal and relieve pain. It is always important to wear them properly to get the best results and to speed up your recovery stage. A good brace should be able to decrease motion but should not cause discomfort on your part. When this happens, inform your doctor immediately, especially when you find it uncomfortable.
In conclusion, neck braces are most effective when you use them as advised by your attending physician. You will also work with an orthotist, which is a medical specialist who designs and custom fits spinal braces.
If you have further questions on how to wear and care for your neck brace – if you have one, do not hesitate to ask your doctor or orthotist. They will ensure that you will get the most benefit from your neck pain treatment.