Elizabeth A. Capogna, Emma Brown, Evan Walrath, William Furst, Qing Dong, Chao-Ming Zhou, Sarah E. Gullbrand, Nam V. Vo, Gwendolyn A. Sowa, Eric H. Ledet

May 2022, pp 1 - 11 ISSLS Prize Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07239-2

First Online: 06 May 2022


The intervertebral disc degenerates with age and has a poor propensity for regeneration. Small molecule transport plays a key role in long-term degradation and repair. Convection (bulk flow), induced by low rate cyclic loading of the intervertebral disc, has been shown to increase transport of small molecules. However, the potential therapeutic benefit of low rate cyclic loading on degenerated discs has not been described. The purpose of this study was to determine if a sustained (daily) low rate cyclic loading regimen could slow, arrest, or reverse intervertebral disc degeneration in the rabbit lumbar spine.


Fifty-six New Zealand white rabbits (>12 months old) were designated as either Control (no disc puncture), 8D (disc puncture followed by 8 weeks of degeneration), 16D (disc puncture followed by 16 weeks of degeneration), or Therapy (disc puncture followed by 8 weeks of degeneration and then 8 weeks of daily low rate cyclic loading). Specimens were evaluated by T2 mapping, Pfirrmann scale grading, nucleus volume, disc height index, disc morphology and structure, and proteoglycan content.


In every metric, mean values for the Therapy group fell between Controls and 8D animals. These results suggest that sustained low rate cyclic loading had a therapeutic effect on the already degenerated disc and the regimen promoted signs of regeneration. If these results translate clinically, this approach could fulfil a significant clinical need by providing a means of non-invasively treating intervertebral disc degeneration.

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