Life Without My Neck Brace: Week 1

Sarah StockettLast week, I saw my neurosurgeon (hopefully, for the last time), and he told me I was free to start living life without my neck brace, my very elaborate necklace. When he told me to take my neck brace off, I was confused. Honestly, it’s been so long that I thought he was messing with me.

He told me to taper off wearing my neck brace over the next two weeks, so I thought it was kind of crazy to start my life without my brace in his office. I had plans that day:  driving, a haircut (the first in many months), and some at-home facial time. I sure didn’t want to use up my brace-free time in his office!

The First Day

I discovered that the first day out of the neck brace wasn’t that bad. Surprisingly, I worked, drove, got my haircut, and did my facials all without the neck brace. In between events, I put it on and rested.

I think that I did so well the first day because I had actually been practicing using my neck muscles for quite some time. When I first broke my neck, the doctor told me that I shouldn’t wear my neck brace too tightly. Sometimes, when I was feeling good, I would work on holding my head straight and level, centering my neck perfectly in the middle of my collar.

For short periods of time, I would work my neck muscles this way. Then, I would reach up and slide my collar back so my chin comfortably rested on its perch. Once supported, I relaxed my neck muscles and let my collar support me fully.

Rainy Days

For the first couple days, I had great success. Then, around day 4, we got rain. What a curse! Before the rain even started, my neck hurt and I had a diagonal pain through the right side of my face, passing behind my right eye, right up to my scar in my eyebrow.

Anyone with broken bones and arthritis know what I’m talking about! The pain is so sharp and intense that it’s like I just re-injured myself. I spent most of my waking hours back in my neck brace.

Honestly, I was hesitant to spend so much time back in the brace after I had been spending most of my waking hours out of it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up the next morning. I was rewarded with more mobility, greater ease with head movements, and no more pain.

“You Must Be So Happy to Have that Off!”

No, actually, I’m not really excited to have my neck brace off. You see, I somehow managed to escape from a very serious situation with only minor amounts of pain and discomfort. Lots of people who break their necks die; that fact isn’t lost on me.

The neck brace makes sure that, should anything else happen to me in this crazy life, my already-broken neck isn’t vulnerable to further injury. All it would take is the wrong kind of bump and I could be in pain, paralyzed, or dead. I don’t like any of those options, so I always valued my time with my neck brace.

Now, though, I’m supposed to move on. My neck is showing signs of healing, but the doctor said that the indications of healing are not quite as advanced as he would have imagined. He ordered x-rays to make sure my vertebra moved like it should, then gave me the go-ahead.

So, now, I feel like my whole life is on eggshells. Don’t move to quickly or suddenly. Make sure your head is always level and your shoulders are relaxed. Don’t turn your head too far, but don’t ignore those muscles that need to be strengthened! The whole thing feels like chaos–chaos with potentially fatal consequences.

So, What Are You Doing?

I suppose I’m doing pretty much the same things that I did with my collar on.

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Walk and stretch.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Make good decisions.
  • Keep my head in neutral and my shoulders away from my ears.
  • When I move, I think about the muscles that I need to be using. Then, I try to correctly use those muscles.
  • Take deep breaths and remember that this, too, is a process.
  • Only move in ways that feel good.
  • If I think I might need the brace, I put it on.

Anyone who has also had to live with a neck brace, how did you feel when the brace came off? Let us know your story in the comments below.

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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.


  1. Andrew W. on August 22, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    Thank you for this post. I fractured my part of my C6 vertebrae almost 3 weeks ago and have been trying to do a lot of research on life with a neck brace and the time afterwards. Your post shows great insight. Thank you! Looking forward to being brace free!

    • Sarah Stockett on August 22, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      Thank you so much, Andrew! I can completely remember doing the Google searches, trying to figure out how the heck I was going to make it. I’m so glad that this post helped you. If you haven’t checked it out already, I wrote a post about how to sleep in a neck brace. (That was really tricky for me initially.) Happy healing!