How to Comfortably Wear Your Broken Neck Brace

In this post: Life with a broken neck brace is challenging. These tips are all from my personal experience of wearing an Aspen Vista for three months after I broke my C6.

The doctor has informed you that you will be wearing foamy plastic Velcroed around your neck for a while. You’re thankful that you’re not dead or paralyzed but still apprehensive about your comfort level in your future days.

Fear not! I have some tips to help keep you comfortable during this essential healing time. These tips are all from my personal experience of wearing an Aspen Vista for three months after I broke my C6.

how to comfortably wear your broken neck brace

When I got my collar, I didn’t know what to expect. The information that my doctor’s office gave me was very limited (don’t lift anything over 10 pounds, don’t go running), and I quickly discovered how horribly lacking their pamphlet was.

Then, I turned to Google. At the time of my broken neck, there was not a lot of information about broken necks and how to make it through your recovery. This meant some trial and error on my part.

Below are the top 10 suggestions I have on how to comfortably wear your broken neck brace.

To learn more about how I recovered from my broken neck, read my book, Snapped: A Helpful Guide for Broken Neck Recovery.

How to Comfortably Wear Your Neck Brace

1. Always follow your doctor’s orders precisely.

2. If there is some instinct within you that tells you that you should not follow your doctor’s orders precisely, get a second opinion with another doctor. 

You are ultimately the one responsible for making choices about your body, so if something feels wrong, get help from another medical professional.

3. Your neck brace is probably adjustable.

It would stand to reason that since neck lengths vary, neck braces should be adjustable. For my brace, my doctor told me that I should feel like my jaw and chin rest comfortably on my brace. Then, you want to get it tight enough to be supportive, but keep it loose enough so that you don’t choke yourself.

4. Relax your shoulders!

Boy, did I learn this one the hard way! If you only follow one tip, this is the one you should choose. Maybe you think that this is an odd tip, but science supports me. Your neck is a certain length. Presumably, you have followed tip #3 and adjusted your neck brace so that it fits you correctly.

Your neck and neck brace are both a constant measurement; they will never change lengths. If you start to get tense, and your shoulders start to slide up toward your ears, you end up applying unwanted traction to the cervical spine. Since your cervical spine is the area you want to immobilize, the area with the injury, you DO NOT WANT TO APPLY FORCE.

Any time your shoulders raise, your neck brace will shift upward and push your head upward, too. Therefore, keep your shoulders relaxed at all times.

5. Use your pillow wisely.

Obviously, sleeping on your back is going to be your best bet. If you are flat on your back, try to use a very thin pillow. I have found that if I get myself placed so that my shoulders are right at the bottom edge of the pillow, I feel comfortable. If my shoulders are on the pillow at all, the lift makes me strain and feel uncomfortable.

Also, bravely I discovered that I can fold my pillow in half to make an appropriate prop for me to sleep on my side–which leads me to my next point.

6. Do whatever you need to do so that you can sleep comfortably.

For days, I exclusively slept on my back, and sometimes my legs were out straight, sometimes they were bent. Finally, I reached the point where my low back started tightening up. In the middle of the night, I would have to sit up and lean forward so that my low back could have a break.

Waking up in pain in the middle of the night leaves you exhausted in the morning. Instead of letting things progress to this level, have a plan for sleeping.

I discovered that it was much easier to sleepily shift myself into a new position than it was to stay in a position that would cause pain, wake me, and force me to take time to stretch in the middle of the night.

7. Be smart when you get out of bed.

  • When you first wake up, let yourself fully wake up. It would be a real pity if you hurt yourself because you were half asleep and not paying attention.
  • Then, once you’re awake, recruit your abdominal muscles before you move.
  • Roll onto your side closest to the edge of the bed.
  • Use your arms to push yourself up to a seated position. However, if you think that would put too much strain on your neck or if your arms are lacking in strength or sensation, recruit your abs, and sit straight up.

8. Make sure to engage your abdominals.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I think engaging your abdominal muscles before you move is essential. This is because a neck injury can often lead to low back injuries. Since you already have one spinal injury, let’s do our best to make sure you don’t get another.

So, when you move, I want you to remember to find your abdominals. Want to stand after sitting? Recruit your abs. Want to take a walk? Recruit your abs. Want to lay down in bed? Recruit your abs.

This will hopefully be enough to ensure you don’t get a low back injury while your neck recovers.

9. Try to emulate perfect posture.

Imagine what perfect posture would look like; then try to keep your body in that position for as long as possible.

10. Take breaks and rest flat on your back.

Moving Forward with Your Broken Neck Brace

Life will happen. You will discover that certain movements are not a good idea. Similarly, you’ll learn little tricks to help you feel better.

Everyone’s healing process is different, but I hope that these tips from my healing process can help you.

If you’re interested in learning all my tricks for broken neck recovery, check out my book, Snapped: A Helpful Guide for Broken Neck Recovery.

Do you have any tricks for living with your broken neck brace? Let us know below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.