Send to

Choose Destination
Neurosurgery. 1996 Oct;39(4):657-68; discussion 668-9.

The history of spinal biomechanics.

Author information

Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota Hospital System, Minneapolis, USA.


The history of spinal biomechanics has its origins in antiquity. The Edwin Smith surgical papyrus, an Egyptian document written in the 17th century BC, described the difference between cervical sprain, fracture, and fracture-dislocation. By the time of Hippocrates (4th century BC), physical means such as traction or local pressure were being used to correct spinal deformities but the treatments were based on only a rudimentary knowledge of spinal biomechanics. The Renaissance produced the first serious attempts at understanding spinal biomechanics. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) accurately described the anatomy of the spine and was perhaps the first to investigate spinal stability. The first comprehensive treatise on biomechanics, De Motu Animalium, was published by Giovanni Borelli in 1680, and it contained the first analysis of weight bearing by the spine. In this regard, Borelli can be considered the "Father of Spinal Biomechanics." By the end of the 19th century, the basic biomechanical concepts of spinal alignment and immobilization were well entrenched as therapies for spinal cord injury. Further anatomic delineation of spinal stability was sparked by the anatomic analyses of judicial hangings by Wood-Jones in 1913. By the 1960s, a two-column model of the spine was proposed by Holdsworth. The modern concept of Denis' three-column model of the spine is supported by more sophisticated testing of cadaver spines in modern biomechanical laboratories. The modern explosion of spinal instrumentation stems from a deeper understanding of the load-bearing structures of the spinal column.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center