By Brian Acton
Cervical collars, commonly known as neck braces, are medical devices worn around the neck to help provide stability and support. They may also immobilize the neck and prevent it from performing certain movements, either by restricting the range of motion or by reminding the wearer to limit their head and neck movements.
They can provide support, relief for neck pain, and (theoretically) stability to an existing injury. But cervical collars come in two types: soft and rigid, so you may be wondering which is right for your situation.
Here’s the difference between a soft cervical collar and a rigid cervical collar.
Soft Cervical Collars
Soft cervical collars, such as those offered by Core Products, are made of softer materials such as foam. They are typically more comfortable than rigid collars. While they can mildly restrict range of motion, their main purpose is to relieve neck pain and discomfort by providing support and stability. They can also provide a proprioceptive “reminder” to the wearer to voluntarily limit their range of motion. Patients and doctors have reported reduced neck pain with the use of soft cervical collars, though widely accepted medical research has so far been inconclusive.
Soft cervical collars are generally suitable for chronic neck pain, whiplash, and sports injuries.
Rigid Cervical Collars
Rigid cervical collars are made of harder materials. They may restrict the neck’s range of motion more than soft cervical collars, though they do not immobilize completely. They can help provide greater stability to patients who need it, and they are often used by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) as a precautionary measure on patients who have experienced trauma.
Rigid cervical collars may be used when a patient has suffered multiple injuries, as a means of providing stability during transport. They may also be used when a patient experiences trauma, undergoes surgery, or suffers a spinal injury.
How Effective are Cervical Collars?
There is conflicting research regarding the effectiveness of cervical collars in treating patients, especially following trauma or injury. Some studies have documented adverse effects resulting from hard collars, and some studies have shown that they don’t restrict range of motion as much as might be believed. There’s also a concern that cervical collars can lead to muscle atrophy when used for longer periods of time.
However, many patients and physicians have reported successful results, particularly when patients wear soft cervical collars to provide relief from neck pain. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing chronic neck pain or a neck injury to see if a cervical collar could be right for you.