Living with a Neck Brace: 10 Things to Avoid

neck brace
Don’t be jealous. This is a picture of my neck brace on a happy lady who must not really have a broken neck.

A while ago, I broke my neck while playing baseball with my kids. (For the full story, click here.) Ever since, I have been living with a neck brace as prescribed. I hope that a combination of increased calcium, decreased Coke, continuous collar wearing, and attention to my activity will result in a shorter time with my new favorite accessory.

Some of these tips are common sense. However, some of them are my personal observations. Honestly, I wish someone would have sent a flier like this home with me because I would have rather read about what not to do than experienced it. So please, let my pain be your gain, and learn from my mistakes.

10 Things to Avoid while Living with a Neck Brace

  1. Obviously, any activities that your doctor has advised you to cease, you should stop.
  2. Don’t do anything that could jar your spine. No roller coasters, horseback riding, roller skating, bike riding, and NO RUNNING.
  3. Don’t lift anything above the weight set by your doctor. For me, it’s 10 pounds. So, if I’m not supposed to lift anything greater than 10 pounds, it also stands to reason that I should not push or pull anything greater than 10 pounds.
  4. Limit reaching your arms overhead. Many of the nerves for our arms come from our cervical spine. Some of the muscles that control movement of your scapulas (shoulder blades) are located right below your cervical spine. Therefore, it’s best to only reach overhead if absolutely necessary. For some people, this advice may be moot because pain from a damaged nerve in your neck may prohibit you from lifting your arm overhead.
  5. Do not rotate your spine. With your cervical area stabilized, the rest of your spine is now more vulnerable to injury. Yes, some rotation from the rest of your spine is fine. However, you should avoid large twists and bending straight to the side. A big bend to the side is a great way to mess up your low back quickly.
  6. When you need to pick something up, don’t hinge from the hips. Instead, bend deeply at your knees. You want to keep your spine as straight as you can while you lift. As always, engage your abs before doing anything.
  7. Don’t let your head get lower that your chest and hips. This was a lessor that I learned personally. When the head is lower than the chest or hips, that is a natural form of traction. In this case, traction is applied to the neck with help from gravity. Gravity gently tugs on your neck and head to help create space and relieve compression among the cervical vertebrae. This is a wonderful thing, except for when you’re trying to stabilize your cervical spine so it can heal from an injury.
  8. Avoid stress and tension. It’s fair to say that you have enough on your plate. Do your best to avoid additional stress. If you feel yourself getting tense, take a break to lay down and meditate. Lay down on your back to combat the effects of gravity, and practice deep breathing to help you relax. Plus, if your shoulders start lifting toward your ears, it will apply pressure on your neck brace. Your neck brace applies pressure to your jawline and, once again, you’ve got a form of traction for your neck.
  9. Don’t let your body get stiff and tight. I know, this one really sounds like a contradiction since, if you’re like me, you’re only allowed to walk. However, do your best to stretch yourself out. For me, this means sitting in Dandasana, getting into position for Baddha Konasana, maybe even Virasana. Oddly, I find that my biceps also really need a good stretch. In the middle of the night, my tight shoulders want me to bend my elbows and rest my palms on my stomach. I’d guess that I do this for a good portion of my sleep. Then, in the morning, I’m starting to feel like I have T-Rex arms.
  10. Don’t lose focus on your goal. Healing a break in a bone takes quite a bit of time and effort. Be patient with the process. In the scheme of your life, God willing, this time will be a drop in the bucket. Make your number one goal everyday be to heal your break and do whatever is in your power that day to reach your goal.

I hope that these tips help while you’re living with a neck brace. What are some secrets to happy living that you’ve discovered? Let us know in the comments.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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