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Cervical Collar

What is a cervical collar? 

A cervical collar is a neck brace that limits the movement of your neck while providing you with support and can also provide some pain relief. The type of collar will be decided by your team, however, we mainly use Aspen collars at The Walton centre, however other types are available and maybe required depending upon your individual needs, a spinal nurse specialist should clarify this with you prior to your discharge. 

surgical collar

The Aspen collar is a two-piece semi rigid neck brace, held together by Velcro straps. The brace support is provided by plastic on the outside and soft pads to the inside. 

Why do I need it? 

Cervical collars are required for multiple reasons, the most common being for fracture management in the neck (broken bone) and the collar is used for management of the fracture, it can also be used for support pre/ post-surgery. 

The cervical collar will encourage correct spinal alignment and aim to prevent the development of potential further problems. 

It may be necessary to apply pads to help prevent pressure damage for any patients deemed ‘at risk’. They can also be washed and reused by the same patient. 

How does it work? 

The cervical collar works by reducing the ability to move your neck, giving a degree of reduced mobility of your head and neck. This works by reducing the movement of bone in the neck to promote and aid healing. The collar will only limit movement in the neck, it will not completely eliminate it so it is important it fits correctly. 

The cervical collar will help your neck support the weight of your head while the bone, the soft tissues and muscles in your neck heal. Following cervical spine (neck) surgery or sustaining a fracture the collar will help keep your neck bones in line while you heal. 

How long will I need it for? 

The reason why you require the collar will determine the length of time you require it for. Your consultants will make this decision.

Consultant: 

Reason for cervical collar: 

Duration required and instructions: 

Collar fitted by: 

Collar manufacturer /size: 

Quantity provided: 

Date fitted: 

Review date/plan: 

How should the collar fit? 

It is important you are completely comfortable with your collar prior to discharge, please ensure you ask to see one of the Spinal nurse specialists or experienced health care professionals should you require more support or advice. 

You will be measured and fitted with an appropriately sized and shaped cervical collar. The front piece of the collar will sit under your chin and upon your chest, the back panel will sit at the base of your skull and extend to your shoulders. The two pieces are held together by velcro and together completely encase and cover your neck. It is important to wear your cervical collar properly to get the maximum benefit. 

surgical collar example

The cervical collar should be tight enough to prevent movement of your neck, for example restrict ‘yes’ and ‘no’ movements however not completely restrictive so that it affects you’re breathing or swallowing. 

Please seek medical advice if: 

  • The collar becomes damaged. 
  • The skin under the collar has broken down. 
  • You have run out of replacement pads. 
  • The collar now has become poorly fitted. 
  • Develop and new numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. 
  • Any new difficulty with swallowing/ or new choking episodes. 
  • Any new disturbed vision. 

Changing the collar 

You should remove the collar once a day to ensure you skin is clean, dry and there are no areas of irritation. 

You will be provided with a spare cervical collar, unless you have been told otherwise by your consultant you should wear the cervical collar in the shower and change this to a dry one, once you have finished showering. 

It is important to refrain from unnecessary movement of your neck during this process:

Whilst lying down:

  • Remove the cervical collar by releasing one of the Velcro straps, pull the front panel of the collar away from your neck and slowly slide out the back panel from one side of your neck.
  • Have a family member, carer or mirror to hand to look at your neck and ensure there is no irritation or areas for concern.
  • Ensure your neck is completely dry.
  • Replace the cervical collar by releasing one of the Velcro straps, pull the front panel of the collar away from your neck and slowly slide out the back panel from one side of your neck.
  • Ensure your shoulders, neck and head are completely supported by the bed.
  • Ensure the collar is centred.
  • Hair should be placed over the collar.
  • Front panel should be slid up from the chest wall and placed under the chin. Ensuring this is central.
  • Attach the straps one side at a time, ensuring the chin is sat on top of the chin rest.

Whilst sitting:

  • Remove the cervical collar by releasing one of the Velcro straps, pull the front panel of the collar away from your neck and slowly slide out the back panel from one side of your neck.
  • Have a family member, carer or mirror to hand to look at your neck and ensure there is no irritation or areas for concern.
  • Ensure your neck is completely dry.
  • Ensure your shoulders, neck and head are completely supported by the chair.
  • Keep head and neck in a neutral position (nose in line with belly button) were possible.
  • Do not bend forwards, backwards or side to side.
  • Place the back panel behind the neck, make sure it is centred.
  • Attach the Velcro straps one side at a time to fit to the front panel, ensuring the chin is sat on top of the chin rest.
  • Whilst holding the front panel, tighten straps as much as can be safely tolerated.

Cleaning the collar:

  • Both foam to front and back panels detach.
  • Peel the foam off, paying close attention to the shape as you remove them so you can reposition correctly.
  • Wash with mild soap and water.
  • Do not use bleach products or detergent on the foam.
  • Squeeze any excess water out of the foam padding.
  • Lay the foam pads flat to dry.
  • The plastic shell of the collar will need to be wiped, the reattach padding.

Key points to remember:

  • Unless you have been informed otherwise you should wear this collar while showering and be provided with a spare to change into following the shower.
  • You should change the collar while lying down or if upright with your head/neck and shoulders fully supported.
  • Your chin should not sit inside or stick out over the collar, but flush with the collar edge.
  • The collar should rest comfortably against your body, with only the padded areas touching your skin.
  • The collar should be facing the correct way to give you the required support.
  • Hair should be placed on the outside of the collar.
  • Ensure no earrings or jewellery cause pressure to your skin when the collar is in use.
  • You should keep your neck clean and dry.
  • Your collar should be removed daily for cleaning of your neck, on dong this you should check to make sure there are no areas of skin irritation/ pressure damage.
  • The pads and plastic of the collar can be cleaned with mild soap and water.
  • Driving a vehicle is not permitted whilst in the cervical collar.
  • Wearing the collar will likely cause weakness to the muscles supporting your head, as the collar has been doing this work, when you no longer require the collar, we would advise this is gradually removed.
  • You may be provided with a homebased exercise programme by the physiotherapists. This should be completed when your Consultant says it is safe to do so. The homebased physiotherapy exercise programme (leaflet will be provided, when safe to do so) will restore the movement to your neck muscles.

Please contact the spinal nurse specialists for any advice or support required while you require a cervical spine collar. Spinal nurse specialists are available Monday to Friday between the hours of 9am to 5.30pm

Tel: 0151 556 3424

The Physiotherapy department can also be contacted 8am- 4pm

Tel: 0151 556 3863

Out of the stated hours please contact the ward you were admitted to on the telephone number you were provided on discharge.

  • Last Updated:
    01 February 2021
  • Review Date:
    01 February 2023
  • Author:
    Faye Mangan
  • Summary:

    A cervical collar is a neck brace that limits the movement of your neck while providing you with support and can also provide some pain relief.

  • Related Service:

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