The load-displacement behavior of 35 fresh adult cervical spine motion segments was measured in compression, shear, flexion, extension, lateral bending and axial torsion tests. Motion segments were tested both intact and with posterior elements removed. Applied forces ranged to 73.6 N in compression and to 39 N in shear, while applied moments ranged to 2.16 Nm. For each mode of loading, principal and coupled motions were measured and stiffnesses were calculated. The effect of disc degeneration on motion segment stiffnesses and the moments required for motion segment failure were also measured.
In compression, the stiffnesses of the cervical motion segments were similar to those of thoracic and lumbar motion segments. In other modes of loading, cervical stiffnesses were considerably smaller than thoracic or lumbar stiffnesses. Removal of the posterior elements decreased cervical motion segment stiffnesses by as much as 50%. Degenerated cervical discs were less stiff in compression and stiffer in shear than less degenerated discs, but in bending or axial torsion, no statistically significant differences were evident. Bending moments causing failure were an order of magnitude lower than those for lumbar segments.