The effects of dynamic loading on the intervertebral disc

Eur Spine J. 2011 Nov;20(11):1796-812. doi: 10.1007/s00586-011-1827-1. Epub 2011 May 4.


Loading is important to maintain the balance of matrix turnover in the intervertebral disc (IVD). Daily cyclic diurnal assists in the transport of large soluble factors across the IVD and its surrounding circulation and applies direct and indirect stimulus to disc cells. Acute mechanical injury and accumulated overloading, however, could induce disc degeneration. Recently, there is more information available on how cyclic loading, especially axial compression and hydrostatic pressure, affects IVD cell biology. This review summarises recent studies on the response of the IVD and stem cells to applied cyclic compression and hydrostatic pressure. These studies investigate the possible role of loading in the initiation and progression of disc degeneration as well as quantifying a physiological loading condition for the study of disc degeneration biological therapy. Subsequently, a possible physiological/beneficial loading range is proposed. This physiological/beneficial loading could provide insight into how to design loading regimes in specific system for the testing of various biological therapies such as cell therapy, chemical therapy or tissue engineering constructs to achieve a better final outcome. In addition, the parameter space of 'physiological' loading may also be an important factor for the differentiation of stem cells towards most ideally 'discogenic' cells for tissue engineering purpose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Hydrostatic Pressure
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*