Background: Osteoarthritis and spinal degeneration are factors in neck and back pain. Calculations of stress in clinically occurring configurations of the sagittal cervical spine are rare.
Objective: To calculate and compare combined axial and flexural stresses in lordosis versus cervical configurations in anterior and vertical sagittal head translated positions.
Design: Digitized measurements from lateral cervical radiographs of 3 different shapes were used to calculate axial loads and bending moments on the vertebral bodies of C2-C7.
Methods: An elliptical shell model was used to model horizontal cross-sections of the vertebral bodies of C2 through T1. Axial and flexural stresses were calculated with short compression block equations. Elliptical shell modeling permitted separation of stresses into cortical and inner medullary regions. Digitized radiographic points were used to create polynomials representing the shape of the sagittal cervical curvatures from C1 to T1. To calculate bending moments at each vertebral segment, moment arms from a vertical line through C1 were determined from digitizing.
Results: Compared with the normal lordosis, stresses on the anterior vertebral body cortical margins of C5-T1 in the sagittal translated postures are compression rather than tension. At the posterior vertebral bodies in the anteriorly translated position and vertically translated postures, the stresses change from compression to tension at C5 through T1. In absolute value (ABS) compared with values at the same segments in a normal lordosis, the magnitude of the combined anterior stresses in the sagittal postures are higher at C5-C7 (eg, ABS[sigma(straight)/sigma(normal)] approximately 1.25 to 4.25).
Conclusions: Vertebral body stresses are reversed in direction at C5-T1 in sagittal translated postures compared to a normal lordosis. Stress analysis, with implications for bone remodeling, indicates that both sagittal head translation postures, anterior head carriage, and vertical head translation, are undesirable configurations in the cervical spine.