Through-thickness regional variation in the mechanical characteristics of the lumbar facet capsular ligament

Elizabeth Gacek, Emily A. Bermel, Arin M. Ellingson, Victor H. Barocas

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1 Scopus citations


The human lumbar facet capsule, with the facet capsular ligament (FCL) that forms its primary constituent, is a common source of lower back pain. Prior studies on the FCL were limited to in-plane tissue behavior, but due to the presence of two distinct yet mechanically different regions, a novel out-of-plane study was conducted to further characterize the roles of the collagen and elastin regions. An experimental technique, called stretch-and-bend, was developed to study the tension-compression asymmetry of the FCL due to varying collagen fiber density throughout the thickness of the tissue. Each healthy excised cadaveric FCL sample was tested in four conditions depending on primary collagen fiber alignment and regional loading. Our results indicate that the FCL is stiffest when the collagen fibers (1) are aligned in the direction of loading, (2) are in tension, and (3) are stretched − 16% from its off-the-bone, undeformed state. An optimization routine was used to fit a four-parameter anisotropic, hyperplastic model to the experimental data. The average elastin modulus, E, and the average collagen fiber modulus, ξ, were 13.15 ± 3.59 kPa and 18.68 ± 13.71 MPa (95% CI), respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1445-1457
Number of pages13
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number4
Early online dateMar 31 2021
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by NIH/NCCIH U01-AT010326, NIH/NICHD K12HD073945, and NIH/NIAMS T32 AR050938. The authors thank the Anatomy Bequest Program at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute for providing resources. The authors also thank Lauren Bersie-Larson and Ryan Mahutga for their assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Facet capsular ligament
  • Lumbar
  • Spine
  • Tissue mechanics

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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