After a spinal cord injury (SCI), the doctor may have you wear a brace. A brace externally controls the position of the spine, applies corrective forces, stabilizes the spine when soft issues (eg, ligaments) cannot, and restricts movement.
Although there are many types and designs, braces are usually categorized as soft or hard. Other types of braces support just the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or lumbosacral spine. These braces may be worn to stabilize the spine after injury and/or surgery.
Your doctor will make the best recommendation for the type of brace following your SCI.
Soft: An example of a soft brace is a cervical collar constructed of dense foam with a Velcro® closure. This type of collar is worn temporarily to treat whiplash.
Hard: A hard cervical collar (eg, Philadelphia Collar) may be used to immediately stabilize the neck following traumatic injury, such as a vertebral fracture. Hard collars are usually worn 24 hours a day.
This brace supports the middle chest (sterno), base of the skull (occipital), and jaw / chin area (mandibular). It prevents the head and neck from moving up and down or side-to-side. A headband is worn across the forehead and attaches to a chin piece that supports the lower jaw. The chin piece attaches to a vest-type device.
A halo ring or halo crown is a piece of equipment that encircles and is fixed to your head. A halo is used when the cervical spine in unstable. Neck surgery, for example, can destabilize the neck, so a halo ring or halo crown will help hold the neck in place while it heals. The halo ring attaches to your bed, usually via a rope.
A halo vest combines a halo ring and padded vest-like apparatus worn about your torso. The halo ring attaches to the vest through adjustable metal bars. A halo vest stabilizes the cervical spine and allows you to be mobile.
Pins, equally spaced around the halo ring, are connected to both sides of your head under local anesthetic. The procedure is followed by a series of x-rays to make sure the cervical spine is properly positioned. Some doctors use halo ring in bed for a few days prior to attaching the vest (if appropriate for your case).
Beyond the Spine: Other Braces
During and after rehabilitation, braces are used to stabilize joints, weak muscles, and assist function. Some orthotic devices include electrodes that stimulate: for example, one orthotic device has electrodes that stimulate the hands to grasp. Orthoses are customized to fit you and fill a need whether it involves a wrist/hand, shoulder, knee, ankle/foot, or other joint or body part.