Neck Brace Questions

I was just wondering what other's experience was as it pertains to wearing the neck brace after surgery - I am 3 weeks post fusion of 4/5, 5/6, 6/7 areas.  I have a separate brace that I wear when I shower.  There are times when I want to just give my neck some "air" if you know what I mean - from sweat, etc.  My doctor does not want me to wear a "soft" neck brace - So I have been wearing the one given to me after surgery.  He wants me to wear it for at least 4 weeks. 

Is it better to wear it the entire 12 week period - I know some of these I will have to address with my surgeon tomorrow at post op appt. but just wondering what best practices are.  I have been sleeping sitting up and am still not driving



  • It feels like every surgeon is different.  I had what I understand was the exact same procedure as another person and their surgeon did or did not want them to wear a neck brace.  I think the use of a brace can also have something to do with the condition of your neck. 

    You can discuss your discomfort with your surgeon, but I highly recommend that you follow their instructions.

  • Like stiffneck7 said, there is much variation on what the surgeons tell their patients.  I had the same surgery as you, 3-level ACDF from 4/5 to 6/7.  My surgeon told me to wear hard brace (which was on when I woke up from surgery) for 6 weeks, except to wear the foam version or shower brace for in the shower.  I was so glad to get it off in 6 weeks.

    I agree that you need to do whatever your surgeon tells you to do, as he/she knows your specifics and your case. 

    Good luck with your recovery!

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  • Thanks for the replies.. yes, I plan on doing everything he has told me to do.  I too will be so glad to be out of it.

  • Blupebble,

    I wear a cervical-thoracic orthosis (CTO) to sleep in (six years) and also during the day whenever I will be distracted and not able to keep my head in neutral position. I found that lining the cervical portion of the orthosis with Home Spun dishcloths, 12"x12", made of cotton, made in India (ca 01754-r n 98325-Now Designs 64180 20900-2001542), aided in reducing pressure point pain from constantly wearing the orthosis. They have large strands and a loose weave (waffle knit, crocheted) which makes them very user friendly. I have a couple of dozen and rotate them out as necessary, for comfort and cleanliness. I also figured out that when sleeping it was best to not move, sleep supine, and do not twist, flex, extend, tilt or rotate in the orthosis. I just punched up the dishcloths on Google search and was able to find them in Now Designs under Home Spun (crocheted) dishcloths.


  • Hi Blupebble, I agree with others that there seem to be different positions among the surgical community about neck braces. I had ACDF C4-7 three weeks ago. My surgeon tends not to require a neck brace, but in my pre-op appointment with him, he said he might put me in a brace, since I was getting 3 levels done. So then when I saw him just before surgery, we discussed it more, and I asked to be in a brace at least for a while, because I was concerned about moving my neck too much. He agreed and I woke up in the brace. Wore it for 2 weeks, the hard kind. Including while sleeping at the hospital, where I stayed 3 nights because of blood salt levels. Doc said I didn't need to sleep in the brace at home, but I used a soft collar at night. After I saw him at the 2 week appointment, he said I no longer needed to wear it. So for the most part, I am not wearing it at all. Sometimes I put the hard collar on, if I am going in the car or on a walk, to keep it more stable.  But after a while, my neck, shoulders and upper back are very sore. It feels like I am being stretched out almost to a painful level. 

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  • I am now at 8 weeks and I feel better sometimes at night with some support.  Ended up buying .. believe it or not.. one of those Boppy nursing pillows.. I found it at a thrift store in brand new condition and it supports my neck perfectly.  I tried also one of those memory foam travel neck pillows and really love that too.  Going to try and find a soft one to wear as i just feel more supported with something there, I mean after all there is 3 levels of surgery there. 

    I am finding a great deal of stiffness and pain at night and early morning as well, so i think some extra soft support would be perfect.

  • Hey Blupebble,

    Glad you are doing well at 8 weeks post-op.  I purchased a cervical pillow from a popular online website.  It has a depression in the middle for the back of the head and it also accommodates side sleeping.  It took me about 3 months to graduate from that pillow back to a normal pillow.

  • Blupebble - I'm also a side sleeper.  After my last ACDF at C4/C5, that completed a 15 level fusion from C2 to T10.  I'm a big guy with broad shoulders.  I had to buy a three inch extra firm foam pillow so I could sleep.  I think I'll have to use a similar pillow the rest of my life.  We often have to make adjustments after spine fusions.

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