What is a Neck Collar?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A neck collar is a tool used in medicine to either stabilize or immobilize the neck as a way to alleviate pain in the neck area or to make sure that the neck and surrounding muscles are not strained after an injury or a surgical procedure. Sometimes people who are suffering from pinched nerves will use a neck collar. Sometimes a neck collar is simply used in order to alleviate tightness and discomfort in the neck. It is important that a neck collar be used according the to instructions of a medical professional. In many cases, a neck collar is made of a firm foam material, but collars that are used to immobilize the neck may be made of more rigid materials.

Cervical collars are one of the more common types of neck collars.
Cervical collars are one of the more common types of neck collars.

Two of the most common kinds of collars are cervical collars, which are softer and are often used to alleviate pain and discomfort, and immobilization collars, which are used when it is crucial that the neck not move at all. Even the more rigid collars that are usually constructed primarily out of a kind of hard plastic, have padding around the areas that come into direct contact with the chin and shoulders, so as to make the device as comfortable as possible to wear. It is important to use the kind of neck collar that is designated by one's doctor. Using the wrong kind of collar can lead to further injury, complications, and pain.

A gel pack may be used to heal the pain associated with an injured neck.
A gel pack may be used to heal the pain associated with an injured neck.

There are some kinds of neck collars that are used to deliver heat to the neck area. Heat is often used to relax the muscles and relieve pain. There is, for example, a kind of neck collar that is made mostly out of cloth and can be warmed in the microwave. The interior of the neck collar has a large pad that warms in the microwave and, when wrapped around the neck, offers warmth and comfort to aching muscles. This kind of collar, like many other kinds of neck collars made out of foam or cloth, closes with a tab that can adjusted to fit the wearer as well as possible.

A neck collar may be necessary after a traumatic neck injury.
A neck collar may be necessary after a traumatic neck injury.

Most neck collars, especially those made out of foam and fabric, just come in one size. People who need smaller than normal or larger than normal collars may have to special order them from a medical supply company. Alternatively, it may be necessary to be fitted with a neck collar in one's doctor's office.

Some people who have chronic neck pain may benefit from immobilizing the neck and allowing it to heal.
Some people who have chronic neck pain may benefit from immobilizing the neck and allowing it to heal.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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