METHODS: Fifteen lumbar spines were sectioned from fresh cadavers into 15 L2/3 and 15 L45 motion segments. Each vertebral segment was then potted superiorly and inferiorly in polymethylmethacrylate, effectively creating a bone-disk-bone construct. The potted spinal segments were mounted in a mechanical testing system, preloaded in compression to 300 N, and axially rotated to 3 degrees in both directions at a load rate of 1 degrees /s. This was done over 3 cycles for each motion segment in the flexion and extension positions. Each specimen was then tested to torsional failure in either flexion or extension. Stiffness, torque, and energy were determined from cyclic and failure testing.
RESULTS: The results showed that in all cases of cyclic testing, the higher segment extension resulted in higher torsional stiffness. In relative extension, the lumbar specimens were stiffer, generated higher torque values, and generally absorbed more energy than the relative flexion condition. There were no differences found in loading direction or failure testing.
CONCLUSIONS: Increasing the effective torsional stiffness of the lumbar spine in extension could provide a protective mechanism against interverbral disk injury. Restoration of segmental extension through increasing the lumbar lordosis may decrease the strain and reinjury of the joints, which can help reduce the extent of pain in the lumbar spine.
Click on the above link for the PubMed record for this article; full text by subscription. This abstract is reproduced with the permission of the publisher.