Tips for Wearing a Cervical Collar: 10 Things to Avoid

To better prepare you for life with a neck brace, here are tips for wearing a cervical collar. Specifically, there are 10 things you should avoid.

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Once upon a time, I broke my neck while trying to teach my boys how to play baseball. We had no idea my neck was broken. And, when I say “we,” I mean everyone from myself to the ER doctor.

When the break was discovered, I was immediately assigned an Aspen Vista cervical collar, which somehow felt like the human equivalent of the cone of shame that dogs sometimes have to wear.

To say I was ill-prepared for the cervical collar inservice that followed is an understatement.

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.

With the trauma from my accident and the shock of discovering I had a broken neck, I had trouble hearing anything over the noise of my inner voice yelling, “What the what?!”

Then, before I knew it, I was alone in a room with a handout that didn’t seem to contain any answers to any of the questions I had.

The top three suggestions below came from my handout. Everything else, I learned on my own.

Let my pain be your gain. Learn from my mistakes and please use these tips for wearing a cervical collar so your recovery can be as pain-free as possible.

Related: If you’d love to have a book containing everything I learned about having, healing, and recovering from a broken neck; check out my book Snapped: A Helpful Guide for Broken Neck Recovery. (By reading or ordering through this link, I earn a small commission.)

Also Related: If you’re dealing with a broken neck, check out the Broken Neck Pain page to find helpful posts to take you through your entire healing process.

10 Things to Avoid While Wearing a Cervical Collar

When you first get a cervical collar, you’ve already been through a traumatic accident. Something has happened, and now your neck is broken.

You don’t need anything else to stress you out, so just take note and avoid the following 10 things while you’re wearing your brace.

1. Any activities that your doctor has advised you to cease, you should stop.

Obviously, your doctor is going to know what activities do and do not impact a broken spine. If your doctor tells you to temporarily quit doing something, it’s smart to listen.

2. Don’t do anything that could jar your spine.

“No roller coasters, horseback riding, roller skating, bike riding, and NO RUNNING.”

That was literally in my handout. I couldn’t believe it. Because who with a broken neck is like, “You know what I feel like? A good roller coaster ride.”

No one, that’s who.

But, that being said, I know a ton of people who would try to run with a broken neck. Guys, don’t run with a broken neck it jars the spine and could greatly damage your already-delicate situation.

3. Don’t lift, push, or pull anything above the weight limit set by your doctor.

I believe 10 pounds is pretty standard, but it could vary depending on the severity of the break.

Also, if you’re not supposed to lift anything greater than a certain weight, it also stands to reason that you should not push or pull anything greater than your weight limit.

4. Limit reaching your arms overhead.

When you reach your arms overhead, it requires a lot of work from muscles that are probably near your break. You want to let this area rest and recover.

Therefore, it’s best to only reach overhead if absolutely necessary. For some people, this advice may be moot because shooting arm pain from your accident may already prevent 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. And always, always pull your belly button toward your spine to engage your abs before doing anything.

7. Don’t let your head get lower than your chest and hips.

This was a lesson 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 you’re probably only allowed to walk. However, do your best to stretch yourself out.

Me doing some yoga

I ended up doing a lot of yoga poses and Pilates exercises that weren’t necessarily recommended.

Okay, they weren’t recommended at all since I was only allowed to walk.

Still, they helped my body feel better and kept my legs and back a little looser.

My favorite stretches were the yoga poses Dandasana, Baddha Konasana, and Virasana. (Click on those links and you’ll get awesome step-by-step instructions on how to do those poses.)

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 think I do this for a good portion of my sleep. Then, in the morning, I 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 every day be to heal your break and do whatever is in your power that day to reach your goal.

Want More Tips?

If you’re looking for my tips and information to help you get through your time with your neck brace, check out the Broken Neck Pain page.

Or, if you’re a book lover, you can check out my book Snapped: A Helpful Guide for Broken Neck Recovery on Amazon. (By reading or ordering through this link, I earn a small commission.)

Do you have any other tips for wearing a cervical collar? Let us know in the comments 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.