Neck Braces and Cervical Collars Treat Common Neck Pain Causes

Whiplash and abnormal cervical lordosis, such as text neck, are common, yet are very different neck disorders.

Neck pain is common. Upwards of 70% of Americans report having neck pain at some point in their lives, with 10% of the population struggling with it at any given time.1

Cervical spine conditions run a wide spectrum—from mild to debilitating—and the severity of your neck symptoms—with or without upper back pain—will help your doctor narrow down your best treatment options available. One option may be a neck brace, also called a cervical collar or cervical orthosis.
Young woman suffering from "text neck", holding her neck in painToday, two common neck pain-provoking disorders are (1) Whiplash and (2) “Text neck,” a cause of abnormal cervical lordosis. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Neck Bracing as Part of Nonsurgical Treatment

Several nonsurgical or conservative treatment options may help manage and reduce your neck pain—and, fortunately, spine surgery is rarely necessary. A cervical brace or collar may be part of a conservative treatment plan that includes medications (over-the-counter, prescription), physical therapy, massage, and/or acupuncture. The treatment plan your doctor recommends is based on the outcome of a physical and neurological examination, x-rays and/or other imaging tests, and severity of symptoms—together, all confirm your diagnosis. Treatment goals often include neck stabilization, pain management, advance healing and early mobilization.

Neck Brace Basics

Varied types of soft and rigid neck braces (or collars) are available to manage the needs of patients with different cervical spine conditions. The type of brace prescribed is based on the diagnosis and treatment goals. Soft collars are flexible and offer the greatest range of motion, while rigid braces provide more cervical stabilization.

  • The term stabilization is used to refer to immobilizing the head and neck to limit or prevent motion, which also serves to support the head and reduce weight off the cervical spine.

Today, two common neck pain-provoking disorders are (1) Whiplash and (2) “Text neck,” a cause of abnormal cervical lordosis.

Whiplash and Soft Collars

Whiplash is a common hyperflexion and hyperextension cervical injury caused when the neck suddenly, forcefully and swiftly moves forward and backward; a motion similar to cracking a whip. Approximately 3 million people in the United States2 are affected by whiplash injury sustained during a motor vehicle accident (even at slow speeds), falling or playing sports. Whiplash symptoms are typical of a sprain and strain when cervical ligaments and muscles are stretched or torn and includes: neck pain, stiffness and muscular spasm, which may radiate into the head and/or upper back. In addition, some people with whiplash experience headaches referred from the cervical spine.

The doctor may recommend a soft cervical collar as part of your treatment regimen. Additional treatments may include a muscle relaxant and physical therapy. A soft collar can provide neck support that may help reduce soft tissue inflammation and pain in the immediate period (48-72 hours) following injury. Soft neck braces are often made of foam and covered in cotton (or another easily washable and comfortable fabric). The brace wraps around the neck and is secured with a Velcro closure.

  • Prolonged use of cervical collar should be avoided, and patients should be encouraged to perform range of motion and stretching exercises as soon as possible following a whiplash injury.

Soft cervical collarA soft cervical collar is sometimes recommended to patients who have suffered a whiplash injury. Photo Source: iStock.com.

Text Neck-Related Abnormal Cervical Lordosis and a Rigid Collar

The term lordosis refers to the normal forward curve in your neck. However, that forward curve can change over time when your head regularly bends forward past your shoulders, such as when you’re reading on your mobile device. Many people spend hours a day in a hunched forward position while looking at their phones, computers, or other devices, which causes significant strain on your neck.

One researcher noted that although the human head weighs about 12 pounds, its relative weight increases to about 60 pounds when the head and neck extend forward and bends downward. Over time, this increased load on your spine can lead to stress to the bones, ligaments and muscles with the potential for a change in the normal lordosis and chronic neck pain.3

With the advent of modern technologies that keep many of us constantly connected to devices, cervical lordosis or “text neck” has emerged as another spinal disorder bracing may treat. A rigid neck brace or collar may be an option to help treat abnormal cervical lordosis associated with forward head posture.
Illustration depicting text neck, 3D imagery of upper spineMany people are connected to mobile devices that influence forward head postures. Photo Source: iStock.com.While all cervical braces offer a degree of head and neck support, one type of rigid neck brace is designed with an adjustable feature has been developed to gradually treat forward head posture often caused by “text neck” related postures—a modern day cause of neck pain and upper back pain.

One such bracing technology is the Cervigard™ Forward Head Posture Neck Collar. It is designed to properly support and correct the alignment of the head and neck. Daily use of this neck collar can gradually restore normal cervical lordosis by correcting head and neck posture in patients who experience pain and abnormal lordosis, which may result from “text neck” and other causes of forward head posture pain.
Woman fitted with the Cervigard Forward Head Posture Neck CollarThe Cervigard Forward Head Posture Neck Collar may be prescribed to treat text neck, a common cause of neck pain. © Used by Permission. Cervigard™ Spinal Bracing Corporation.The device may be worn as little as 20 minutes a day or for several hours, depending on the patient’s needs.3 The process of correcting the deformity with this brace is a steady one—it’s been likened to straightening teeth with dental braces. This eventually retrains the muscles and corrects abnormal soft tissue tightness that has developed over time.
X-ray images prior to and after treatment(Left) The patient has a deformed or abnormal cervical lordosis causing neck pain and headaches. (Right) After treatment, normal cervical lordosis is restored. © Used by Permission. Cervigard™ Spinal Bracing Corporation.

Neck Pain Brace Advice

If your doctor prescribes a brace, it’s imperative to follow his or her instructions for how to wear the brace. Wearing the brace exactly as prescribed will ensure it eases your pain while reducing the risk of adverse effects from overuse. If you’re unsure how long you should wear the brace each day, ask your doctor. Also, talk to your doctor about how to care for your brace.

Disclosure
Dr. Malanga reports a financial interest in Cervigard™ Spinal Bracing Corporation.

Updated on: 11/05/19
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