Can A Neck Collar Cure Sleep Apnea?

A member on SleepGuide commented about his experience using a soft cervical collar to effectively treat his sleep apnea. Here’s a copy of my response to him:

I’m glad to hear that the collar worked for you. I’ve had a handful of patients that have reported similar results using soft and hard neck braces. You’re right in that it does keep your airway open. This is also the principle behind how the contour pillow works—by keeping your head extended somewhat, you’re less likely to obstruct, especially when you’re in deep sleep (when your muscles relax). Unfortunately, this option works for only some people, since there are so many other variables, including how stuffy your nose is, your sleep position, weather changes, what you just ate, and how extended your neck becomes with the device in place.

Here’s a picture of the airway in someone on his back with the head in a relatively neutral position:

Here’s the same person with the head bent forward a bit (flexed):

And with the head bent back (extended):

Notice a big difference in the space behind the tongue between all these positions.

Different people with have different levels of responses even with the same maneuvers. This is why some people can benefit from neck collars, but not all. The bottom line is, it can’t hurt to try. Hope this answers your question.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Can A Neck Collar Cure Sleep Apnea?

  1. Hi Dr. Park!

    Part of my go to bed ritual is to place my lower CPAP mask strap high enough on the back of my skull that it does not pull my neck when I tilt my head back. I start sleep on my back with my head tilted back. It makes breathing much easier.

    I monitor my pulse oximetery and record the audio and hope in the near future to include peripheral arterial tonometry (PAT) (I guess I will have to build this myself – some things are hard to obtain). If I find too many awakenings I will probably pursue a soft neck brace – thanks for the tip – I may well need it.



  2. I thought I’d understood from my spinal surgeon that wearing a cervical collar daily for extended periods could cause permanent stiffness in the neck, especially as we are all prone to arthritic conditions as we get older. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that doing this for years could result in some fusing in the cervical spine and I can’t imagine this would be an option for anyone that has any type of degenerative disease of the cervical spine already. This sounds like a good temporary option but I’d consult with an orthopedic or spinal surgeon before implementing this long term just to be safe.

  3. I would like to comment, I used to wear CPAPs but it never worked for me. After a few days I end up having severe sinus reactions. There is one alternative that worked hopefully it will work for others. Buy a cheap Futuro neck brace and wear it as normal. Pick a pillow that is about the same height as the distance from your ear to the bed when you sleep on your side and with the pillow compressed. Put one hand between that same ear and the pillow and the other hand between your knees. This will stabilize your side sleep position. Later in the night you will reposition during sleep, which is expected, but try to go back to this position when you have the chance and if it feels comfortable to do again on the other side. You will find breathing a lot easier and feel much better in the morning.

    After a few nights of doing this you will notice having a stiff neck in the morning. Do a few neck rotations and neck side-to-side exercises during the day to relieve this, in time the neck pain will go away and you will get used to the technique. There is an unexpected benefit to this method, your posture will improve during the day and you will get used to having your head tilted backward during sleep preventing airway restriction.

    One more advise, losing weight has helped a lot too. Best of luck to other CPAP users.

  4. On my own idea, probably influenced by my profession, I went to my Hospital Brace Shop and asked them for a “Philadelphia” neck collar fitted to keep my jaw firmly closed. When you sleep on your back and use a pillow that tends to flex your head forwards- then your airway is narrower,as in the pictures above. In addition almost in everybody, when fully asleep, the jaw drops open. In the majority of people this dramatically increases the tendency of the tongue, drawn by gravity, to move backwards often completely closing the airway. By using the neck collar to keep your jaw closed helped me at least a lot. In addition,many people find benefit from a custom moulded mouthpiece, made by certain dentist specialists. These hold the lower jaw further forwards by 3-5 mm or more. The better models you can adjust so your lower jaw is moved mm by mm forwards until you get the optimal benefit.
    Then, after I retired, and lost forty pounds, (215 to 175) then using just the mouthpiece and the neck collar I had a completely normal sleep study,all night on my after ttwenty years of using the CPAP mask, For the last five years I have been mask free and free of any sleep apnea. When I have experimented and went to sleep with just the mouth piece, my wife says that things are fine lying on my side (as they were even at 215 lbs); but when Turn during my sleep onto my back she says my jaw drops open and my airway obstructs about every 1 and 1/2 minutes to two minutes. The next day I would feel rather washed out. So that little experiment was done only four times. Now I never go to sleep without the collar and the mouth piece.
    My expert MD trained in Sleep medicine, working a large sleep center with three other specialists had never heard of using a sleep collar to keep your jaw closed and tongue from falling back. They had also never seen anybody 70 years old (at retirement) get rid of their mask and sleep apnea with a twenty year history. Since my normal sleep study three and one half years ago they have bee suggesting a Brace Shop fitted Philadelphia neck collar to not a few of their patients. Now I hear they have a number of patients thrilled as I am to enjoy the very special blessing of freedom – without a CPAP mask. If you have any thoughts or questions my email is and telephone number 860 678-8176 or 518-873-2262. the collars are relatively inexpensive and I would very strongly recommend that everyone with sleep apnea give them a try. Perhaps they will just allow you to lower the pressure of your CPAP, which happened in my case until I no longer needed the mask.
    The risk of using one I believe is very low- perhaps a stiff neck at first that you can easily free up in the morning. Over fifty years of Neurosurgery we treated certain types of neck fractures with Philadelphia neck collars, worn almost twenty for hours a day some times for twelve weeks. Never have I seen or heard from my colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston or at the Hartford Hospital, Ct, of any cervical fusings resulting from prolonged use of the collar. In some people with severe cervical osteoarthritis, or other cervical diseases, I suspect it might encourage self-fusion. But I suspect the probability is Very very low. If you do have a neck condition then see a cervical spine specialist — Neurosurgeon or Orthopedist.
    Hope this diatribe and my own experience mighty inspire, motivate, and help some more people. It really is a blessing to get rid of that mask!

  5. Please notify me of comments by email or telephone.
    Thank you

  6. This is really very promising. I hope that this will work to most of the people who has sleep apnea problem. I know that it was stated above that it does not work to all but I am just hoping that this can of great help to them.

  7. I have had sleep apnea for at least 20 years and was diagnosed and put on CPAP but had problems with condensation and compliance. I then had throat and nose surgery to open my airways. I started to have severe drowsiness last year and was put back on CPAP. I also have some central apneas. I realized that even though my AHI was under 5, I still wasn’t getting rest. I also had flow graphs from the CPAP smart card that showed my rate of breathing would drop so low that the graph showed it as if I had taken the mask off or turned the machine off. With the cervical collar, my rate graph almost looks as good when I am asleep as when I am awake. I still used the CPAP too. I found that if my chin is too high my stomach fills with air, but if it is level, it works really well. Less fatigued, less pain, less dizziness!!!