To improve our understanding of the dynamic characteristics of the human lumbar spine, both experimental and finite-element methods are required. The experimental methods included measurement of the axial steady state response, resonant frequencies, and damping of seven lumbar motion segments under an upper-body mass of 40 kg. The influence of the presence of posterior elements and different magnitudes of compression preload on the response was also studied. To supplement the measurements, linear and nonlinear, axisymmetric, and threedimensional finite-element models of a L2-L3 disc-vertebra unit were developed to predict the free and forcedvibration responses. The step and harmonic loadings in the axial direction were considered for the forced-vibration analysis. The effect of the presence of the body mass and compression preloads were also examined.
The results of experimental and finite-element studies were in good agreement with each other. They indicated that the system resonant frequencies are reduced considerably with the addition of a body mass of 40 kg and increase significantly (P < .005) as the compression preload increases. The compliance at both low and resonant frequencies decreases with increasing compression preload. Under preloads of not more than 680 N, removal of the facet joints tends to decrease slightly the segmental resonant frequencies irrespective of the magnitude of compression preload (P < .1). The finite-element model studies show quasistatic response under harmonic loads with periods much larger than the fundamental period of the segment and under step loads with slow rising times. Under a step load without the body mass, the nucleus pressure varies with both location and time and reaches a maximum of about 2.5 times that under equivalent static load. The addition of a 40-kg mass, in this case, renders a single degree-of-freedom response, with the pressure remaining nearly constant with location inside the nucleus. The stresses and strains throughout the segment in this case increase approximately twofold in comparison with equivalent static values. Partial or complete removal of the disc nucleus considerably decreases the resonant frequency and increases the corresponding segmental response amplitude (ie, compliance). The results indicate that the most vulnerable element under axial vibration loads is the cancellous bone adjacent to the nucleus space. Fatigue fracture of bone as a cumulative trauma and the subsequent loss of nucleus content likely initiates or accelerate the segmental degenerative processes. The annulus fibers do not appear to be vulnerable to rupture when the segment is subjected to pure
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