The primary objective of this research is to associate lumbar segmental mechanical response with intervertebral disc degeneration under physiologic testing conditions. Because no mathematical model exists for lumbar spine segmental rotations, a portion of this thesis evaluates potential methods for curve fitting the torque-rotation curves. The Dual Inflection Point (DIP) Boltzmann equation was developed during the course of this research and is presented here as a method for fitting spinal motion data wherein a physical meaning can be assigned to each of the model coefficients. This model can tell us more about the effects of degeneration, testing conditions, and other factors that are expressed in the change in spinal motion. Previous studies have investigated the relationship between the degeneration grade and flexibility of the intervertebral disc, but were completed without the presence of a compressive follower load. This study builds on past work by performing the testing under a compressive follower load. Segmental stiffness, range of motion (ROM), hysteresis area, and normalized hysteresis (hysteresis area/ROM) were evaluated and the effect of degeneration, segment level, temperature, and follower load were analyzed. Twenty-one functional spinal units (FSUs) were tested in the three primary modes of loading at both body temperature and room temperature in a near 100% humidity environment. A compressive follower load of 440 N was applied to simulate physiologic conditions. Fifteen of the twenty-one segments were also tested without the follower load to determine the effects of the load on segmental biomechanics. The grade of degeneration for each segment was determined using the Thompson scale and the torque-rotation curves were fit with the DIP-Boltzmann sigmoid curve.The effect of degeneration was statistically significant (α = 0.05) for stiffness, ROM, and hysteresis area in axial rotation (AR) and lateral bending (LB); it was also statistically significant for ROM and normalized hystersis in flexion-extension (FE). The lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) was significantly stiffer in AR and LB; the decrease in ROM and hysteresis area in AR and LB were also statistically significant for the lumbosacral joint compared to L1-L2 and L3-L4. Temperature had a significant effect on stiffness and hysteresis area in AR and on hysteresis area in LB. The follower load increased stiffness in all three modes of loading, but was significant only in AR and LB; it also reduced ROM and increased normalized hysteresis in all three modes of loading.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





spinal biomechanics, quality of motion, Boltzmann sigmoid, lumbar spine, disc degeneration, torque-rotation response