Cervical facet capsular ligament mechanics: Estimations based on subject-specific anatomy and kinematics

Maryam Nikpasand, Rebecca E. Abbott, Craig C. Kage, Sagar Singh, Beth A. Winkelstein, Victor H. Barocas, Arin M. Ellingson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: To understand the facet capsular ligament's (FCL) role in cervical spine mechanics, the interactions between the FCL and other spinal components must be examined. One approach is to develop a subject-specific finite element (FE) model of the lower cervical spine, simulating the motion segments and their components' behaviors under physiological loading conditions. This approach can be particularly attractive when a patient's anatomical and kinematic data are available. Methods: We developed and demonstrated methodology to create 3D subject-specific models of the lower cervical spine, with a focus on facet capsular ligament biomechanics. Displacement-controlled boundary conditions were applied to the vertebrae using kinematics extracted from biplane videoradiography during planar head motions, including axial rotation, lateral bending, and flexion–extension. The FCL geometries were generated by fitting a surface over the estimated ligament–bone attachment regions. The fiber structure and material characteristics of the ligament tissue were extracted from available human cervical FCL data. The method was demonstrated by application to the cervical geometry and kinematics of a healthy 23-year-old female subject. Results: FCL strain within the resulting subject-specific model were subsequently compared to models with generic: (1) geometry, (2) kinematics, and (3) material properties to assess the effect of model specificity. Asymmetry in both the kinematics and the anatomy led to asymmetry in strain fields, highlighting the importance of patient-specific models. We also found that the calculated strain field was largely independent of constitutive model and driven by vertebrae morphology and motion, but the stress field showed more constitutive-equation-dependence, as would be expected given the highly constrained motion of cervical FCLs. Conclusions: The current study provides a methodology to create a subject-specific model of the cervical spine that can be used to investigate various clinical questions by coupling experimental kinematics with multiscale computational models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1269
JournalJOR Spine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. JOR Spine published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Orthopaedic Research Society.


  • biomechanics
  • cervical spine
  • facet capsular ligament (FCL)
  • finite element model
  • fluoroscopy
  • videoradiography

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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