Segmental variations in facet joint translations during in vivo lumbar extension

Ryan M. Byrne, Yu Zhou, Liying Zheng, Suman K. Chowdhury, Ameet Aiyangar, Xudong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The lumbar facet joint (FJ) is often associated with pathogenesis in the spine, but quantification of normal FJ motion remains limited to in vitro studies or static imaging of non-functional poses. The purpose of this study was to quantify lumbar FJ kinematics in healthy individuals during functional activity with dynamic stereo radiography (DSX) imaging. Ten asymptomatic participants lifted three known weights starting from a trunk-flexed (∼75°) position to an upright position while being imaged within the DSX system. High resolution computed tomography (CT) scan-derived 3D models of their lumbar vertebrae (L2-S1) were registered to the biplane 2D radiographs using a markerless model-based tracking technique providing instantaneous 3D vertebral kinematics throughout the lifting tasks. Effects of segment level and weight lifted were assessed using mixed-effect repeated measures ANOVA. Superior-inferior (SI) translation dominated FJ translation, with L5S1 showing significantly less translation magnitudes (Median (Md) = 3.5 mm, p < 0.0001) than L2L3, L3L4, and L4L5 segments (Md = 5.9 mm, 6.3 mm and 6.6 mm respectively). Linear regression-based slopes of continuous facet translations revealed strong linearity for SI translation (r 2 > 0.94), reasonably high linearity for sideways sliding (Z-) (r 2 > 0.8), but much less linearity for facet gap change (X-) (r 2 ∼ 0.5). Caudal segments (L4-S1), particularly L5S1, displayed greater coupling compared to cranial (L2-L4) segments, revealing distinct differences overall in FJ translation trends at L5S1. No significant effect of weight lifted on FJ translations was detected. The study presents a hitherto unavailable and highly precise baseline dataset of facet translations measured during a functional, dynamic lifting task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-95
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Mar 21 2018


  • Dynamic stereo X-ray imaging
  • In vivo facet translations
  • Lifting task
  • Lumbar facet joint
  • Segment-specific differences


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