The intervertebral disc, like many collagen-based tissues, has a mechanical response which is highly nonlinear (1). This characteristic is due to both the arrangement and composition of the tissue constituents of the disc (2). Over the past decades several studies have reported the nonlinear response of the disc for different loading scenarios. In particular, past studies were focused on the quasi-static and low frequency (< 10Hz) response to pure and combined cyclic loading, such as axial compression, shear, flexion/extension moment (3–6). The information provided by these studies has been applied in several fields, from the validation of numerical models to the development of disc prostheses. However, such loading conditions are only partially representative of the in-situ load that the intervertebral disc normally experiences. High frequency dynamics stimuli, such as that experienced while driving a car on a rough surface or driving heavy industrial machinery, are also important. It is well known that long-term exposure to vibrational loading is detrimental to normal disc metabolism (7,8). Despite its relevance only a few studies have investigated the dynamic response of the disc to high frequency vibration (9,10) with sometimes different outcomes. In particular, no study has shown an asymmetric, nonlinear dynamic behavior of the system, even though it is evident in quasi-static testing — the well-known tension / compression asymmetry. This aspect is somehow neglected when building rigid body models of the upper body for impact simulation where a Kelvin-Voigt model with linear stiffness is normally used. The aim of this experimental study was therefore to investigate the nonlinear dynamic response of the intervertebral disc to high frequency loadings, taking different pre-loads and displacement amplitude into account.

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