Neck braces also known as cervical braces or C collars, are used to keep your head still when you have a neck soft tissue injury or after surgery. They come in different types, from the simple wrap-around model to the rigid kind. The type of neck braces your doctor may prescribe will depend on the nature of your injuries or the cause of the pain.
Since the neck brace works by restricting your neck’s movements, they cannot be entirely comfortable. While it’s okay to find ways of making the brace more comfortable, the most important thing is to follow your doctor’s instructions to achieve the expected results. Here are some suggestions on how to make a neck brace more comfortable without compromising its effectiveness.
1. Improve on your posture
Bad posture affects your spine and neck muscles, whether you have a neck brace or not. Choosing the best chair to sit on especially if you are aging, can help you improve your posture. Avoid low and soft chairs and opt for chairs that allow you to sit upright. If you are in an office setting, ensure that your desk is at a level where you will not need to hunch over or bend your neck. Rather than bending your neck to look down to the keyboard, position the keyboard in a way that you will only need to turn your eyes. This way, you will have minor discomfort when you are wearing a neck brace.
2. Avoid carrying a lot of weight
Lifting heavy weights causes a strain on your muscles, including your neck muscles. When having a neck brace, it would be best to avoid lifting heavy weights or engaging in vigorous activity such as running. Try dividing up heavy loads into small manageable portions that you could carry in phases. Ensure you maintain a good posture when lifting to avoid putting pressure on your neck muscles.
3. Ensure that your collar fits well and comfortably
To get the best out of a neck brace, it has to fit correctly around your neck. When loosely worn, it may not be adequate to provide the necessary support, which can aggravate your neck injuries. Additionally, too loose a neck brace can rub against your skin as you move, causing blisters and sores. If you are not sure how tightly you should wear your mount, it would be best to consult your doctor for guidance.
4. Keep your collar clean
A soiled collar can become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that can cause skin infections. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that you clean your collar every day. In a situation where the doctor recommends having a collar at all times, it would be best if you had replacement pads for changing. Ensure that you don’t use harsh detergents or bleach on collars as some chemicals used in detergents and bleach can react with the skin, causing irritations.
5. Avoid sitting or resting too much
You may feel tempted to rest and sit back and rest when you have a neck brace. However, too much resting or sitting could cause your neck muscles to stiffen up. Stiff muscles can prolong your recovery period and increase the discomfort caused by the neck brace. Gentle movement, for example, walking, can help prevent your neck muscles from stiffening up, making your experience with the neck brace much better.
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6. Ensure your skin is completely dry before wearing a neck brace
Always ensure that the skin under the brace is dry before wearing a cervical brace. Moist skin can encourage bacterial growth, which can cause skin irritation and infections. After taking a bath, dry the skin around your neck completely with a dry towel before wearing the brace. Please don’t use baby powder under your collar; doing so will damage the pads.
7. Sleep in a neutral position
Depending on your injury’s nature, the doctor may recommend that you sleep with your neck brace. In such a case, you will require to sleep in a position that offers the best comfort. Here are a few tips on how to make a neck brace more comfortable as you sleep.
- Avoid mattresses that are too soft. High-density mattresses are better at supporting your spine and consequently your neck.
- Always keep your neck in a neutral position and ensure your neck aligns with your body.
- Sleep on your back and always use a thin pillow. Thick pillows can add pressure on your neck, increasing your discomfort.
8. Wear a scarf under the brace
If you constantly experience skin abrasion from your collar, you may consider wearing a soft scarf under your collar. There are scarfs made explicitly for use with cervical collars that can help make your collar neck experience as pleasant as possible.
FAQs: How to make a neck brace more comfortable?
Does wearing neck braces have side effects?
Neck braces can help protect and support your neck in the short term; however, research suggests that long-term use can lead to stiff and weakened neck muscles. In case of a severe neck injury, wearing a neck brace is largely unavoidable. But in the case of moderate neck pain, you may need to reduce the duration you wear a collar or seek an alternative.
In recent years, medical professionals discourage using cervical collars for traumatic injury patients citing potential breathing obstruction, increased jugular blood pressure, and increased pressure on the brain.
Are there different types of collars?
Yes, there are. There are soft and hard varieties of neck braces. Soft braces are made from soft materials such as foam, felt, or rubber. They are designed to fit snugly around the neck and sit below the jaw. Doctors usually recommend it for moderate neck pain relief.
On the other hand, rigid neck braces are made from hard materials such as plastic or plexiglass. They are more restrictive than soft braces and have chin support to allow your neck muscles to relax. Doctors usually prescribe them for severe neck pain and spinal fractures.
For how long should I wear a neck brace?
The length of time you will need to wear a neck brace will be dependent on your condition. In general practice, it is recommendable that you wear a neck brace for one week if you have moderate neck pain that is not trauma-related. However, it is possible to continue using a neck brace for as long as six months for severe neck pains related to the injury. It is essential to talk to your doctor to determine how long you will need to wear a neck brace for your specific case.
It is never comfortable wearing a neck brace, mainly because of its restrictive nature. But it’s for a good reason. The tips shared in this post do not guarantee absolute comfort with your neck brace. However, they can help you improve your experience with neck braces. Following your doctor’s instructions is critical if you have to have positive outcomes from wearing your neck brace.