The effect of compressive force applied to the intervertebral disc in vivo. A study of proteoglycans and collagen

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1998 Dec 1;23(23):2524-37. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199812010-00007.


Study design: Coil springs were stretched and attached to produce a compressive force across the lumbar intervertebral discs of dogs for up to 27 weeks.

Objective: To test the hypothesis that a high compressive force applied over a period of time affects the production of proteoglycans and collagen by the intervertebral disc cells.

Summary of background data: It is a commonly held belief that high forces applied to the intervertebral disc, and to joints in general, play a role in causing degeneration.

Methods: Pairs of stainless steel coil springs were stretched and attached to produce a compressive force across the lumbar intervertebral discs (L1-L2 and L3-L4) of 16 dogs. Dogs were killed between 13 and 27 weeks after the springs were attached. The discs (L1-L2 and L3-L4) were excised and assessed using immunohistochemical analyses and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; T13-L1 and L4-L5 were used as controls.

Results: The main result relates to a group effect in the six dogs, assessed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, that were generally at the highest values of force for the greatest number of weeks. For the nucleus, but not the anulus, Spearman rank correlations revealed a strong correlation between increases in force and force-weeks (force multiplied by number of weeks) and increases in collagen type I accompanied by decreases in proteoglycans, chondroitin sulfate, and collagen type II for both experimental discs (L1-L2 and L3-L4), as compared with corresponding values in the controls (T13-L1 and L4-L5). In other words, as either the force or the force-weeks increased, the effect on the nucleus became greater.

Conclusion: A high compressive force applied to the disc over a period of time initiates changes in proteoglycans and collagen.

MeSH terms

  • Aggrecans
  • Animals
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans / metabolism*
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / metabolism
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Dogs
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins*
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Intervertebral Disc / metabolism*
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / metabolism
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Male
  • Proteoglycans*
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Diseases / etiology
  • Spinal Diseases / metabolism*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Aggrecans
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Proteoglycans
  • Chondroitin Sulfates
  • Collagen