The Effect of Compressive Axial Preload on the Flexibility of the Thoracolumbar Spine

Wafa Tawackoli, Rex Marco, Michael A K Liebschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Study Design: An in vitro flexibility study of the human thoracolumbar spine under compressive preload. Objective. To attain kinematics descriptive of the thoracolumbar spine in vitro by applying a pure bending moment under a range of physiologic compressive preloads. Summary of Background Data. Many studies on the mechanical behavior of the spine under pure moment have been conducted; however, little is known regarding variations in the range of motion of the thoracolumbar spine attributable to simulated body weight and other physiologic load conditions. Methods. Five fresh human cadaveric thoracolumbar spine specimens (T9-L3) were used. Five compressive axial preloads ranging from 75 to 975 N were applied to each specimen along the spinal curvature through four adjustable brackets attached to each vertebral body. Flexibility measurements were taken by applying a maximum of 5 Nm pure bending moment to the specimen in flexion and extension. The flexibilities in flexion and extension for each loading case were compared. Results. The thoracolumbar spine supported compressive preloads as much as 975 N without damage or instability in the sagittal plane when the preload was applied along the natural curvature of the spine through estimated centers of rotation. The flexibility in bending (flexion/extension) of the ligamentous thoracolumbar spine decreased with increasing compressive preload. Conclusion. A higher bending stiffness was reached after the compressive load exceeded 500 N. Such knowledge could be used to establish better testing guidelines for implant evaluation and more realistic loading conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-993
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Bending moment
  • Bending stiffness
  • Biomechanics
  • Flexibility
  • Flexion/extension
  • Follower load
  • Human spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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