Former President Arroyo's neck brace not needed 24/7 - lawyer

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Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (CNN Philippines file photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The public is used to seeing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wearing a neck brace when her health started to deteriorate.

One of her first public appearances in a wheelchair while wearing a neck brace was in November 2011.

On Tuesday — hours after the plunder charge against her was dismissed by the High Court — a photo of the former President and now-congresswoman emerged. Netizens were quick to notice she was without a neck brace.

Arroyo was diagnosed with multilevel cervical spondylosis in August 2011.

It is the medical term for age-related wear and tear of bones and tissues. It is more commonly known as "the arthritis of the neck." The usual symptoms of this degenerative disease are pains and stiffness of the neck, both of which were experienced by the former President.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bruce Canto explained to CNN Philippines on Thursday whether it would be necessary for Arroyo to wear the neck brace.

"Patients with cervical spondylosis, their necks can be unstable so sometimes the instability will sometimes cause the patient chronic pain. If the neck muscles are also weak in terms of supporting the head, we sometimes advise the use of the neck brace to help for the support," he said.

He added that for patients with severe neck pain or those who have undergone surgery, the use of the neck brace should not be prolonged.

Related: Gloria Arroyo leaves Veterans Hospital

Arroyo underwent two operations five years ago, but is still in need of further treatment.

One of the former President's legal counsel, Larry Gadon, echoed what Dr. Canto said. He added there was no need for her client to wear the neck brace all the time.

"Kapag lang nakakaramdam na siya ng sakit. And mostly pag siya ay nakahiga dahil siyempre yung posisyon ng leeg, at siyempre kapag siya ay nag-eexercise tuwing umaga," he said on Thursday.

[Translation: Only when she is experiencing pain. She mostly wears it while lying down because of the position of the neck, also when she is exercising in the morning.]

Gadon said Arroyo would wear the brace so as not to strain her neck which would lead to more pain.

However, donning the brace for 24 hours would be too uncomfortable for a patient.

Dr. Canto, who is not professionally involved in her health treatments, said that another alternative for Arroyo would be to undergo surgery — depending on the severity of her health condition.

Following her release from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she has been under hospital arrest for four years, Arroyo has said that she planned to have her condition treated.