Using A Philadelphia Collar After Spinal Cord Injury


  • A Philadelphia collar is a type of brace used to keep your neck and head in the correct position after a spinal cord injury (SCI). This gives your injured spinal column and the ligaments time to heal. It also helps support your neck muscles. This collar keeps your neck from moving forward, bending backward, and your head from turning. This is important because staying in bed may cause many pressure sores, blood clots, and other health problems. The Philadelphia collar lets you get out of bed and start moving sooner after your injury.

  • The Philadelphia collar is made of hard plastic with Velcro straps to keep it closed. It consists of a front piece that has a chin cup in it and a curved back piece that fits against the lower part of your skull (head).


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Do's and do nots of having a Philadelphia collar:

  • Do lie flat if the collar needs to be opened for any reason.

  • Do have someone check the collar before you get out of bed.

  • Do tell your caregiver if you have neck pain or a headache.

  • Do not open the collar unless you are lying flat.

  • Do not put lotion under the collar.

  • Do not allow anyone to adjust the collar unless they are trained to do so.

How do I care for my Philadelphia collar?

Taking care of your Philadelphia collar includes making sure the collar is on correctly. It also includes checking the skin under the collar, and cleaning the collar.

How do I put my Philadelphia collar on?

Making sure that the Philadelphia collar is on correctly is very important. If it is too loose or too tight, your spine may not be lined up correctly. This could cause serious problems. Caregivers will check the Philadelphia collar regularly. Tell them if you feel that it is too loose or too tight so that your caregiver can fix it. Ask for help if you cannot put your Philadelphia collar on by yourself.

Checklist for putting your Philadelphia collar on:

  • 1. Lie on your back with both pieces of the Philadelphia collar within easy reach.

  • 2. Carefully slip the back half of the collar under your neck and slide it into position.

  • 3. Put the top half of the Philadelphia collar on.

  • 4. Tighten the straps to make sure the collar fits snugly. You may want to put a silk scarf inside the collar against your neck for comfort. Make sure that the scarf is not bunched or wrinkled. This could cause a pressure sore.

How do I care for my skin under my Philadelphia collar?

  • Have a family member or caregiver check your skin in the morning and evening everyday. Lie flat on the bed before opening the Philadelphia collar. Your caregiver may place a gel pad on any red areas. This will help decrease the pressure of the collar on your skin.

  • You can shower with the collar on. Lie down to remove the collar after the shower so that your skin can be checked. Have the skin on your neck and chin gently cleaned with warm water and soap. Make sure you rinse the soap off and dry your skin gently and completely. Replace the collar, and secure the straps snugly.

Where can I go for support?

Having a spinal cord injury is life changing for you and your family. Accepting that you have a spinal cord injury is hard. You and those close to you may feel angry, sad, or frightened. These feelings are normal. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. Let them help you. Your caregiver can help your family better understand how to support a person with a spinal cord injury. You may want to join a support group. This is a group of people who also have spinal cord injuries. Ask your caregiver for the names and numbers of support groups in your town. For more information, you may call or write:

  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
    801 Eighteenth Street NW
    Washington, DC , 20006
    Phone: 1- 800 - 424-8200
    Web Address:
  • National Spinal Cord Injury Association
    1 Church Street, Suite 600
    Rockville , MD 20850
    Phone: 1- 800 - 962-9629
    Web Address:
  • American Spinal Cord Association
    2020 Peachtree Road, NW
    Atlanta, Georgia , 30309-1402
    Phone: 1- 404 - 355-9772
    Web Address:


  • You have back pain.

  • You have signs of a pressure sore under the collar. These signs may include red, painful, and open areas of skin.

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.


  • You think the collar is too loose or too tight. Lie down flat after contacting your caregiver. Your Philadelphia collar may need to be checked.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.

  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Using A Philadelphia Collar After Spinal Cord Injury (Discharge Care)