Back and Neck Braces Animation

Will You Need a Spinal Brace?

Your doctor may prescribe a back or neck brace as part of your treatment plan.  The purpose of using a brace includes limiting spinal motion, preventing or controlling deformity, reducing load, managing pain, and improving function.  A brace may be prescribed to be worn after spine surgery for added support while the spine heals (eg, fusion).

There are many types of braces and designs to treat a single region or combined areas of the spine.  A brace may be recommended during treatment of the following spine problems:

  • Whiplash
  • Lumbar sprain and strain
  • Adolescent scoliosis to control progression of abnormal spinal curvature
  • Scheuermann’s disease or kyphosis
  • Sacroiliac joint pain
  • Vertebral compression fracture
  • Osteoarthritis (spondylosis)
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal cord injury

Materials Used to Construct a Spinal Brace
Important to the success of bracing is fit.  Many braces are prefabricated in different sizes (eg, small, medium, large) and adjusted to fit by straps, Velcro, and other types of closures.  Some disorders require the brace be custom-made by an orthotist.  An orthotics specialist receives extensive training in specialized areas, including anatomy, biomechanics, engineering, and brace construction.

Braces can be made from:

  • Lightweight plastics
  • Thermoplastic (hot in a liquid form, moldable when warm, hardens when cooled)
  • Rigid plastic reinforcements
  • Foam of varying densities
  • Canvas, other fabrics
  • Carbon fiber reinforced polymer
  • Metals

Depending on the spinal problem and purpose of bracing, it may be necessary to follow-up periodically with the orthotist.  The curve or shape of the spine may change during bracing, and the orthotist will make adjustments to maximize how well the brace is working.

Types of Braces

  • Soft cervical collar: foam covered in a washable fabric wraps around the neck and closes with Velcro
  • Hard cervical collar (called a Philadelphia collar is two pieces [front and back] secured together by Velcro)
  • Sterno-occipital mandibular immobilization orthosis (SOMI): stabilizes the cervical and thoracic spine; it secures the patient’s jaw and lower back of the head/neck [occipital region of the spine] to a chest piece
  • Cervico-thoracic body jacket: encloses the entire back of the skull and attaches to a forehead band and completely immobilizes the head and neck
  • Halo vest: pins attach the head to the halo, and the halo is attached to a padded chest and back piece to maximize cervical stability
  • Thoraco-lumbar-sacral orthosis (TLSO): stabilizes the thoracic, lumbar and sacral regions of the spine
  • Flexible spinal braces: lumbar or lumbosacral corsets

As mentioned, the fit of the brace is very important.  Your prescribing doctor explains how and when to wear your brace, and how to care for it.  Depending on the diagnosis and treatment plan, it may be necessary to wear your brace 23 hours per day.  Perhaps you will only need to wear the brace during the day, or during activity that causes pain.

Updated on: 03/22/16
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Spinal Bracing Center

The SpineUniverse Spinal Bracing Center covers the basics of when braces are used to treat spinal conditions. Learn the goals of this often-used treatment option and read about the different types of spinal braces.
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