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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2013 Jul;23:44-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2013.04.004. Epub 2013 Apr 17.

Thoracolumbar spinal ligaments exhibit negative and transverse pre-strain.

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Brigham Young University, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Provo, UT 84602, USA.


The present work represents the first reported bi-axial spinal ligament pre-strain data for the thoracic and lumbar spine. Ligament pre-strain (in-situ strain) is known to significantly alter joint biomechanics. However, there is currently a lack of comprehensive data with regards to spinal ligament pre-strain. The current work determined the pre-strain of 71 spinal ligaments (30 anterior longitudinal ligaments, 27 supraspinous ligaments and 14 interspinous ligaments). The interspinous ligament and the anterior longitudinal ligament exhibited bi-axial pre-strain distributions, demonstrating they are not uniaxial structures. The supraspinous ligament frequently exhibited large amounts of negative pre-strain or laxity suggesting it makes no mechanical contribution to spinal stability near the neutral posture. Upon implementing multi-axial pre-strain results into a finite element model of the lumbar spine, large differences in spinal biomechanics were observed. These results demonstrate the necessity of accounting for ligament pre-strain in biomechanical models. In addition, the authors present a unique experimental method for obtaining ligament pre-strain that presents a number of advantages when compared to standard techniques.

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