A neck brace, also known as a cervical collar, is primarily used to provide support and stability to the cervical spine. It is used to immobilize areas of the neck and support your cervical region which has been affected by a medical condition that requires effective treatment. Neck braces are extremely beneficial as they provide a noninvasive way to manage and prevent neck pain, correct cervical spine deformities, dealing with muscle weakness, and also support the neck during the recuperation period. The common conditions that may require a neck brace include, getting injured while participating in contact sports, a motor vehicle crash affecting the cervical spine or the head, or when recuperating after a surgical procedure. They are also helpful in dealing with chronic neck pain, whiplash injuries, and cervical radiculopathy.
Types of Neck Braces:
Soft Neck Braces
Soft neck braces are the best choice for people who require a minimal amount of support for their neck and head. These braces keep the neck and head stable and still so as to prevent injury. These soft neck braces do not completely immobilize the neck, however, they restrict neck and head motion. They provide muscular support during movement. These neck braces are used after using the hard or rigid neck braces, for a certain period of time, for appropriate healing. These neck braces are comfortable and allow necessary motion, essential for daily activities. They are primarily used to fix minor cervical issues and also used after whiplash injury. These types of neck braces are helpful for minor neck injuries, and are basically used for few hours in a day.
Soft neck braces have dense polyurethane foam with its outer portion made of material which absorbs moisture. They are specifically cut such that they cover the neck and the jaw completely and still are not too tight on the patient. This flexible neck brace is wrapped around the neck with the help of a Velcro closure. These braces can be washed completely and they comes with skin respiration that prevents the risk of itching or irritation of the skin.
Hard or Rigid Neck Braces:
Hard or rigid neck brace are made from molded plastic, and they provide good support and help in recovering from several kinds of neck pain. These type of neck brace limits the forward and backward movements of the neck. They are usually recommended after you have used the halo titanium ring. Hard or rigid neck brace is primarily prescribed to those who have undergone surgery or after severe neck or head injury.
These type of neck brace come in a variety of sizes so as to fit the neck of the patient appropriately. The outer layer of the hard or rigid neck brace is comprised of a hard thermoplastic support, while the inner layer is made of soft padding. It is important to wear your rigid neck brace correctly. It is important that the brace is fitted tight enough to offer sufficient support to your neck.
Sterno-Occipital Mandibular Immobilization Device:
Sternooccipital Mandibular Immobilization device also known by the name of SOMI is a variant of a rigid neck brace that keeps the neck straight and in alignment with the spine. This type of brace is basically used to align the cervical region of the neck with the spine for fixing the damage done to the neck. SOMI provides rigid support to the cervical spine and prevents any unwanted mobilization of the head and neck. This hastens the recovery process of the damaged structures in the neck. It must be noted that while using this type of a neck brace, the patient must not twist or bend his neck.
Sterno-Occipital Mandibular Immobilization device consists of several parts that provide support to sternum, jaw and the neck. It has a chest plate or sterno at its front, which is connected to the bars going over the shoulder. The chest piece connects to the occipital piece, that supports the back of the head. There is a chin piece, that is connected by straps to a headpience that is worn across the head, at which your lower jaw rests. Although, this type of neck brace is complicated to wear, as compared to other types of braces, these braces offer excellent support for an injured neck.
Basically, SOMI neck braces are used post a surgical procedure to the cervical spine where it is necessary to keep the neck straight and aligned with the spine to prevent any complications. It is also used in cases of a severe injury to the neck such as after a motor vehicle crash where any movement of the neck can have severe implications.
These braces provide an excellent support and faster recovery, by supporting multiple areas at various levels. However, the drawback of this type of a brace is that, it controls extension less effectively as compared to other types of braces.
Thomas Type Neck Braces:
Thomas type neck brace is a less commonly used type of neck brace. It is made from Vinyl plastic and has small holes for ventilation. The design is similar to that of a soft neck brace. However, the only difference is the use of tough material. This type of neck brace provide more rigid support to the neck. It comes with a foam padding on both, the upper and the lower sides of the brace. This aids in preventing pressure sore.
Philadelphia Neck Braces:
Philadelphia neck brace is made of a foam collar that is rigid and has both a back and a front opening that is attached with Velcro. The upper part of this brace supports the lower jaw, while the extension part covers the upper thoracic spine. It is basically used round the clock and should be used until your doctor tells you to remove it.
Philadelphia neck brace is mainly used for conditions where greater restrictions on motion are required. This includes the upper spine fractures, cervical strain, or cervical fusion surgery. This type of neck brace has a two-piece design, where the front and the back piece are held together by Velcro straps. It is a lightweight, two-piece polyethylene foam material having tough plastic supports at the front and rear. While wearing this brace, the patient should ensure that the brace is worn correctly right in the middle of the neck and the straps are firmly attached to prevent any loosening.
Conditions such as surgery for cervical fusion and cervical spine fracture which makes the spine unstable and strains the ligaments excessively are some of the conditions where Philadelphia neck brace could be used.
Miami J Neck Brace:
This type of neck brace is often known as the advanced form of Philadelphia neck brace. Miami J neck brace is designed for providing extra comfort for the patients with neck injury. The sizing and fitting of Miami J neck brace is variable and this provide the best comfort to the patient. It comes with an additional thoracic extension brace that provides protection and support to the thoracic spine.
The design of this type of neck brace is similar to that of Philadelphia neck brace, except that ther5e is an extra thoracic extension that is provided. It also has a back and front opening connected with Velcro. The inner side of the braces is covered with protective padding that offers comfort and prevents skin irritation and itching. Neck fractures and Cervical fusion surgery are the conditions where such a type of neck brace could be used.
Aspen Neck Braces:
Aspen neck brace is something similar to Philadelphia and Miami-J types of neck braces, in most of its design and use. However, the only difference is the type of material used for padding. Aspen cervical braces use much more breathable padding material, as compared to the other two types of neck braces. It has a hole in the center for the purpose of tracheostomy.
Benefits Of Wearing A Neck Brace:
Relieves Neck Pain:
One of the best known benefits of wearing a neck brace is, it helps in relieving neck pain. About 90% of the problems of neck pain are fostered by chronic strain and acute or repetitive neck injuries. Cervical collars or the neck braces can be used for pain management and gaining instant relief. However, it is advisable to seek doctor’s consultation, in case a person is suffering from excessive neck pain.
Useful During Traumatic Neck And Head Injuries:
A neck brace is usually worn after a very aggravated neck or head injury. A neck brace not only stabilizes he injured cervical region along with the skull but also prevents any worsening of the injury or a new injury to the area. Additionally, neck brace also prevents the cervical spine to get damaged to such an extent that it may lead to paralysis or even fatality.
Helps In Quick Recovery From A Whiplash:
If you want a faster or quicker recovery from a whiplash injury, traumatic neck or head injury or a spinal surgery, you need to wear a neck brace. Apart from immobilizing the injured area, these neck braces releases stress off the injured part of the body. So, most doctors advise their patients to wear these braces effectively, until they are done with the healing process.
Beneficial In Treating Cervical Radiculopathy:
There is one more benefit of wearing a neck brace. They help in treating cervical radiculopathy which has symptoms like burning sensation in the neck, tingling and numbness. As is seen with various conditions like disc herniations or physical trauma tends to result in damage to the nerves, which is the primary cause for cervical radiculopathy.
Neck braces are really beneficial in several conditions. Like all spinal braces, the efficacy of a neck brace can be increased significantly when it is put on under the supervision of an expert physician. You will also have to work with a specialist who designs and custom fits spinal braces. It is essential for you to talk to your doctor, in case you have an neck pain problem and make use of the most effective neck brace, as per the doctor’s advice.