Human lumbar spine creep during cyclic and static flexion: creep rate, biomechanics, and facet joint capsule strain

Ann Biomed Eng. 2005 Mar;33(3):391-401. doi: 10.1007/s10439-005-1742-x.


There is a high incidence of low back pain (LBP) associated with occupations requiring sustained and/or repetitive lumbar flexion (SLF and RLF, respectively), which cause creep of the viscoelastic tissues. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of creep on lumbar biomechanics and facet joint capsule (FJC) strain. Specimens were flexed for 10 cycles, to a maximum 10 Nm moment at L5-S1, before, immediately after, and 20 min after a 20-min sustained flexion at the same moment magnitude. The creep rates of SLF and RLF were also measured during each phase and compared to the creep rate predicted by the moment relaxation rate function of the lumbar spine. Both SLF and RLF resulted in significantly increased intervertebral motion, as well as significantly increased FJC strains at the L3-4 to L5-S1 joint levels. These parameters remained increased after the 20-min recovery. Creep during SLF occurred significantly faster than creep during RLF. The moment relaxation rate function was able to accurately predict the creep rate of the lumbar spine at the single moment tested. The data suggest that SLF and RLF result in immediate and residual laxity of the joint and stretch of the FJC, which could increase the potential for LBP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods
  • Cadaver
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Joint Capsule / physiology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength
  • Viscosity
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / physiology*