Wearing a Cervical Collar

A cervical collar is used to give support and limit movement of the neck. It is usually used after a moderate to severe neck sprain. It may also be used after spine surgery to reduce movement. Different types of collars have different purposes.

Home care

There are 2 types of cervical collars:

  • Soft collar. A soft collar is often used for neck pain. You may to wear it all the time or only during certain activities.

  • Rigid collar. This type of collar is used to make sure that the spine doesn’t move. Rigid collars are used after a trauma to prevent spinal cord injury from spine movement. A rigid collar may also be used before or after spine surgery. It helps to prevent movement and to promote healing. Your healthcare team will tell you if and when you can take the collar off, such as during some activities.

General instructions for wearing your collar:

  • Unless told otherwise, wear the collar whenever you are out of bed. You may take it off for sleep and for bathing.

  • When lying down, support your neck with a small pillow or rolled-up towel under the neck. When adjusting your pillows, try to keep your neck in line with your upper back (neutral position). Pillows shouldn't be so thick that they bend your head forward.

  • Don't wear the collar longer than advised by your healthcare provider. This may lead to further stiffness from lack of neck movement.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain in your neck gets worse

  • Pain spreads from your neck into your shoulder or arms

Call 911 or get medical care right away if you get new weakness or numbness in your arms or hands.

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