Your doctor may prescribe a brace for you to wear after
a spinal injury or surgery. It will immobilize your spine
while you heal and will control pain by restricting your
A medical professional will help provide you with
the type of brace that is the most appropriate and
comfortable for you. This will maximize your benefit
from the brace and enable you to use it with few
Injuries or fusion surgeries involving the neck (cervical
spine) and upper back (thoracic spine) require a special
cervical-thoracic brace to restrict neck and upper back
movement. This rigid brace has a plastic padded chest
jacket in two pieces—a front and back piece – fastened
with Velcro straps. Supports for the chin and back of the
head arise from the chest jacket.
Cervical-thoracic braces connect the neck portion of
the brace to the back portion of the brace. Here is a
common example of a cervical-thoracic brace:
When to wear your brace
It is important to follow your doctor's specific
instructions for when and how to wear your brace –
especially when sleeping, showering, and engaging in
Learn how to wear your brace during your fitting for
the brace. After surgery you will wear the brace until
your spine has healed or fused, a period that can range
from 4 weeks to 6 months. If you are fitted for your
brace prior to surgery, practice taking it on and off to
increase your familiarity with it. Do not discontinue
wearing the brace until your doctor has instructed you
to do so.
To clean your brace, wipe it with a mild soap and damp
cloth every day. If your brace has padded liners, allow it
to air dry or use a hair dryer on the cool setting. Do not place your brace or the pads in a clothes dryer.
Your brace will restrict your ability to move. You will
not be able to see your feet, so take care when walking.
Avoid steps and curbs until you are comfortable. When
moving from a lying to a standing position, use your
arm and leg muscles to keep your spine in proper
alignment and "log" roll. Follow your physician's or
physical therapist's instructions about exercise.
Showering / skin care
You may remove the brace to shower or sleep unless
your surgeon states otherwise. Watch for reddened or
irritated skin under the brace. Someone should check
areas you cannot see. Skin breakdown may indicate that
the brace does not fit properly.
Icing while wearing your brace
You may apply ice while wearing the brace. Place a
cold pack inside a pillow case and place it over the area
where you are experiencing pain. Place the brace over
the top of the cold pack.
Instructions for putting on and removing this type of
brace can be viewed by clicking here.
Brace weaning tips
- Start on the date recommended by your surgeon.
- Start slowly. Remove the brace for 1 hour each morning and evening. Wear the brace during the most active parts of the day.
- Add 30 to 60 brace-free minutes to each morning and evening session every day as tolerated. At this pace, it should take you 1 to 2 weeks to wean completely.
- Expect some increase in pain through the weaning process.
- Use ice as instructed.
Sources & links
If you have more questions, please contact Mayfield Brain & Spine at 800-325-7787 or 513-221-1100.
cervical: the neck portion of the spine made up of
lumbar: lower portion of the spine made up of 5
vertebrae; connects with the fused bones of the
orthotic: another name for a brace
orthotist: a medical professional who specializes in
making custom molded braces.
sacral: the five vertebrae at the base of the spine
that provide attachment for the iliac (hip) bones
and protect the pelvic organs.
thoracic: the middle portion of the spine made up of
reviewed by: Lisa Cleveland, PT, Mayfield Clinic, Cincinnati, Ohio
Mayfield Certified Health Info materials are written and developed by the Mayfield Clinic. This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your health care provider.