Experimental measurement of ligament force, facet force, and segment motion in the human lumbar spine

J Biomech. 1993 Apr-May;26(4-5):427-38. doi: 10.1016/0021-9290(93)90006-z.


Facet forces, longitudinal ligament loads, and vertebral body motion were experimentally measured in five fresh human lumbar spine segments, L1-L2. Strain gages on the bone surface were used to quantify facet loads. Buckle transducers were used to measure anterior and posterior longitudinal ligament loads. The three-dimensional motion of the motion segment was measured with an instrumented spatial linkage. The facets were found to carry no load in flexion, large loads during extension (205 N at a 10 Nm moment and a 190 N axial load), torsion (65 N at a 10 Nm moment and a 150 N axial load), and lateral bending (78 N at a 3 Nm moment and a 160 N axial load). The facet contact site on the inferior articular process of L1 was found to move inferiorly to a position of tip impingement near the lamina as extension moments increased. Impingement occurred in the range of 4-6 Nm extension. The posterior and anterior longitudinal ligaments were predominantly loaded in flexion and extension, respectively. No ligament loads occurred in lateral bending and torsion. A 1 cm strip of the anterior longitudinal ligament carried loads up to 130 N at the largest extension moment of 11.4 Nm. The posterior longitudinal ligament had a 60 N load at the largest flexion moment of 7.1 Nm. There was no pre-load in the ligament detectable with the buckle transducers (> 4 N). The facets and ligaments began carrying load immediately with applied load, without a lax region. The experimental technique developed and used provides a good tool for obtaining simultaneous facet joint loads, ligament loads, and vertebral body motion without altering the motion segment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Calibration
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ligaments / anatomy & histology
  • Ligaments / physiology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / anatomy & histology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Rotation
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Transducers