Intervertebral disc mechanics are restored following cyclic loading and unloaded recovery

Wade Johannessen, Edward J. Vresilovic, Alexander C. Wright, Dawn M. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The objectives of this study were (1) to quantify changes in the mechanical behavior of the intervertebral disc in response to cyclic compressive loading and (2) to determine whether mechanical behavior would be restored following a period of unloading. The elastic and viscoelastic compressive mechanical behaviors of adult sheep motion segments were assessed. Ten thousand cycles of compressive loading resulted in increased elastic stiffness and decreased stress-relaxation. After 18 h of unloading in a PBS bath stiffness and relaxation were fully restored. Cyclic loading did not cause structural damage as determined by radiographs and magnetic resonance images. After cyclic loading, average stiffness increased from 603 to 800 N/mm (p = 0.015) and returned to initial levels after the recovery period. Cyclic loading caused a decrease in total relaxation (from 92 to 38 N, p < 0.001) that also returned to initial levels after recovery. The reversible, repeatable effects of cyclic loading and recovery demonstrated in this in vitro study may be attributed to fluid flow. Intervertebral disc fluid transport during the diurnal recovery cycle may be key to understanding intervertebral disc degeneration, as fluid exudation and recovery may be integral to maintaining adequate disc nutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-76
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering


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