Spinal ligaments may be a significant source of chronic back pain, yet they are often disregarded by the clinical community due to a lack of information with regards to their material response, and innervation characteristics. The purpose of this dissertation was to characterize the material response of spinal ligaments and to review their innervation characteristics.

Review of relevant literature revealed that all of the major spinal ligaments are innervated. They cause painful sensations when irritated and provide reflexive control of the deep spinal musculature. As such, including the neurologic implications of iatrogenic ligament damage in the evaluation of surgical procedures aimed at relieving back pain will likely result in more effective long-term solutions.

The material response of spinal ligaments has not previously been fully quantified due to limitations associated with standard soft tissue testing techniques. The present work presents and validates a novel testing methodology capable of overcoming these limitations. In particular, the anisotropic, inhomogeneous material constitutive properties of the human supraspinous ligament are quantified and methods for determining the response of the other spinal ligaments are presented. In addition, a method for determining the anisotropic, inhomogeneous pre-strain distribution of the spinal ligaments is presented. The multi-axial pre-strain distributions of the human anterior longitudinal ligament, ligamentum flavum and supraspinous ligament were determined using this methodology. Results from this work clearly demonstrate that spinal ligaments are not uniaxial structures, and that finite element models which account for pre-strain and incorporate ligament’s complex material properties may provide increased fidelity to the in vivo condition.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





spine, ligament, anisotropic, pre-strain, innervation, biomechanics, spinal ligaments, material properties