Neck braces come in both soft and rigid forms, each serving a different purpose. Most often, soft collars are made from materials like sponge, rubber, or foam. They hug the neck, but shouldn’t feel constrictive. Soft collars are more likely to alleviate pain from tension or a pinched nerve than they are to treat a serious neck injury. The materials used in rigid collars usually involve various forms of plastic or plexiglass. These collars are more restrictive than their soft counterparts in order to limit head rotation and lateral movement, and they often have chin support in order to maximize the relaxation of the neck muscles.
Why buy a neck brace?
For one, it’s obviously a good idea to buy a neck brace if your doctor has prescribed it as part of your neck pain treatment. If your pain isn’t severe and you want to treat it on your own, you have a lot of options. Neck pain is so common these days, perhaps because we spend hours on computers and tablets as well as on mobile devices and gaming consoles. Often, we’re unaware of how poor our posture is. We just know that we’re in pain. What happens is that the normal forward curve of the neck is exacerbated by constantly craning our heads forward to engage in the aforementioned activities. If this description resonates with you, then buying a soft cervical collar might offer some relief, along with neck massages.
What should you look for in a neck brace?
- Intended Use & Design: There’s a wide range of neck brace types and designs to address various neck pain issues. If, for example, you have mild neck pain from stress or prolonged computer use, stay away from immobilizing neck braces. Over-correcting can lead to more pain and weakening of the neck muscles. Some neck braces are rigid, while others are soft. Some can be worn to bed, while others, like inflatable traction devices, would be profoundly uncomfortable in bed.
- Proper Fit: Some neck braces are one-size-fits-all, but many aren’t. Pay close attention to product details on how to measure neck height and circumference. If you wear a poor-fitting neck brace, your symptoms can actually worsen over time.
Is it safe to wear a neck brace?
Well, yes and no. If you choose an inappropriate neck brace for your particular injury, ignore your doctor’s recommendation, or wear the neck brace for too long, you risk experiencing more severe pain, injury to the shoulders or spine, and stiffening and weakening of your neck muscles.
However, if you wear the neck brace briefly to reduce pain, consult with your doctor, follow their recommendations, and select the right fit and type of brace for your injury, then yes—it’s absolutely safe, wise, and sometimes necessary to wear a neck brace.
Vive Foam Cervical Collar
This ergonomically designed cervical collar is a great option for those suffering from mild to moderate neck pain.
Pros: The Vive neck brace offers a lot in terms of design, support, and materials used. Vive implemented an ergonomically designed foam cushion, which fits snuggly beneath the chin and jaw and is contoured for optimal support. The brace limits motion without immobilizing the neck, which is a great feature for users who have mild to moderate neck pain and headaches. It’s made with latex-free foam wrapped in breathable material to prevent sweat as you wear it during the day or night. And the best part? It’s reasonably priced.
Cons: While the Vive neck brace is contoured for comfort, there are many indications that it won’t work for everyone. The brace is one-size-fits-most, 4 inches thick, and designed for neck circumferences between 15 to 20.5 inches, so if you measure closer to the minimum or maximum, the fit might not be great for you. Use caution when considering this brace for post-operative rehabilitation since it’s better for mild to moderate pain.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a quick fix for neck pain, the Vive neck brace could be the product that best meets your needs. Its semi-rigid support offers a nice balance between ordinary soft foam and rigid neck braces. It’s adjustable to an extent with the Velcro strap, but there are fit limitations that might make the neck brace uncomfortable for some users.
Velpeau Foam Neck Brace
Wear it to bed, work, or wherever you need support.
Pros: The Velpeau neck brace is available in four sizes and colors and in three designs: comfort, dual-use, and enhanced. Because the soft, elastic sponge material allows for some movement of the head, it can be used all day and even in bed. The dual-use neck brace has a removable support belt, so you can choose between the two, depending on your level of pain. Finally, the enhanced version is designed to provide the most support. It’s composed of two layers: soft sponge and highly elastic EVA foam. With so many options in appearance, size, and support level, the Velpeau neck brace has a lot going for it. The V-shape sits under the jaw to offer stability and comfort and is higher at the back of the neck for an optimal ergonomic fit. It can even relieve headaches caused by injury.
Cons: While the V-shaped ergonomic fit might enhance support and comfort, the collar has a limited height range, even with the varying sizes and support designs. So there’s an increased likelihood that users will feel that it’s either too high or too short. The outer polyester material could irritate the skin under the chin, and the fit won’t be right for everyone.
Bottom Line: Generally speaking, the Velpeau neck brace gets a thumbs up. Keep in mind that this is a collar meant to treat mild pain. The enhanced version can be helpful post-surgery. There’s a lot to like about the brace in terms of fit, price, and design options. Just be sure to take note of the various designs’ intended purposes, follow the measuring instructions available on the product page, and weigh those options against your needs.
Ossur Cervical Neck Collar
This medical-grade brace features semi-rigid padding, minimizes pressure points, and can be used during medical imaging.
Pros: The Ossur Miami J cervical collar features semi-rigid SorbatexTM padding to inhibit microbial growth that could otherwise occur with extended use. The padding can also help relieve pain. Referred to as a C-Spine immobilizer, the brace is intended for serious medical issues like cervical spine surgery, degeneration of spinal discs, and inflammation of the joints of the backbone. It’s designed to minimize common painful pressure points in neck injuries. It’s X-ray and CT lucent and MR safe.
Cons: For the most part, any drawbacks to the Ossur neck brace concern unsound usage. As a spinal immobilizer, the neck brace shouldn’t be used for mild pain, neck strain, or headaches. Using the neck brace for those conditions might only cause muscle stiffening. Remember to consult with your doctor before purchasing this product.
Bottom Line: Do yourself a favor and consult a doctor before purchasing the Ossur Miami J neck immobilizer. If you don’t, you risk worsening your pain or causing new pain in the head, shoulders, and spine. It’s simply not a device to keep at home along with bandaids and gauze. It’s a medical device. Once you get the doctor’s approval, enjoy a well-made neck brace with an innovative design.
Branfit Inflatable Neck Support and Stretcher
Take treatment of your vertebrae impingement pain into your own hands with this inflatable brace.
Pros: This neck brace by Branfit will be good for people who benefit from chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractors often integrate spinal traction into treatment in order to gently pull the vertebrae in cases of disc compression or pinched nerves. This neck brace by Branfit offers a self-treatment method for stretching and realigning the spine, giving you control of your neck traction treatment. It’s a one-size-fits-all device and is easy to put on. Simply position the curved pillow around your neck, fasten it with the Velcro strap, and use the hand pump to inflate as desired.
Cons: The Branfit traction device might feel quite awkward. Imagine wearing an inflatable mini swimming pool that’s sized to fit somewhat snugly around your neck. Fortunately, Branfit shares its recommendation for use on its product page. Users begin with 10-15 minutes, twice a day, increasing the duration of use gradually over time. It’s not meant to be worn all day or in bed. While the Branfit neck brace is meant to fit as many people as possible, it simply can’t please everyone.
Bottom Line: This brace is definitely worth looking into if you find value in the idea of traction as a beneficial approach to treating neck pain. It’s well-made and for the most part, an effective implement for neck and spinal pain relief. Be sure to follow Branfit’s adaptation recommendations for the best possible experience.
Sports Laboratory Neck Brace PRO+ with Hot & Cold Pack
This simple Velcro wrap-around neck brace allows you to apply ice or heat to your own neck. You can even walk around as you wear it!
Pros: Sports Laboratory Neck Support Brace PRO+ came up with an innovative way to combine therapeutic approaches to neck pain in one application. The flexible brace is made of neoprene and features a mesh pouch on the side that touches the skin for inserting the hot and cold pack. You just have to keep the reuseable gel pack in the freezer, and then microwave it if you want to apply heat. Applying ice to a fresh injury reduces inflammation, and heat relaxes soft tissue. Relaxed muscles have greater mobility and circulation, and therefore, heal faster. Also, the Sports Laboratory neck brace eliminates the awkwardness of trying to apply an ice pack to the neck, which is hard to reach. Attempting to tie an ice pack to your own neck with a bandage or similar support has to be extremely frustrating, so kudos to Sports Laboratory for making neck pain relief much easier to achieve! The brace is also easy to wrap around the neck and fasten with Velcro.
Cons: It comes in only two sizes, large and regular, so it’s unlikely to fit everyone. Also, the neck brace comes with a reusable hot and cold pack, but what do you do when the gel pack eventually wears out? You can’t just use any old gel pack, as the neck brace requires the specific dimensions of the Sports Laboratory neck brace gel pack pouch.
Bottom Line: The Sports Laboratory neck brace can be an effective treatment, whether you have neck pain from working out, sitting for long periods at a desk, or experiencing stress. In other words, you don’t have to be an athlete! If you need what this brace has to offer—super convenient hot or cold application to neck pain—then this brace could be a great option. However, if you’re looking for the support of a cervical collar, whether soft, rigid, or semi-rigid, then this isn’t the product for you.
The number of neck brace products out there is amazing, perhaps overwhelming. It’s a good thing, too, as there’s such a variety of medical conditions involving the neck, differing levels of injury severity, and other needs specific to the individual, like hypoallergenic material and design preferences. Without some guidance, neck pain sufferers are vulnerable to selecting an inappropriate neck brace. Remember to consult with a doctor if you have chronic pain or a serious injury like whiplash, or if you’re in a pre- or post-operative status. After receiving some recommendations, you should be able to find a neck brace that gives you the support you need to heal your neck pain.