Departmental Papers (BE)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

August 2004


Clinical, epidemiological, and biomechanical studies suggest involvement of cervical facet joint injuries in neck pain. While bony motions can cause injurious tensile facet joint loading, it remains speculative whether such injuries initiate pain. There is currently a paucity of data explicitly investigating the relationship between facet mechanics and pain physiology. A rodent model of tensile facet joint injury has been developed using a customized loading device to apply 2 separate tensile deformations (low, high; n=5 each) across the C6/C7 joint, or sham (n=6) with device attachment only. Microforceps were rigidly coupled to the vertebrae for distraction and joint motions tracked in vivo. Forepaw mechanical allodynia was measured postoperatively for 7 days as an indicator of behavioral sensitivity. Joint strains for high (33.6±3.1%) were significantly elevated (p<0.005) over low (11.1±2.3%). Digitization errors (0.17±0.20%) in locating bony markers were small compared to measured strains. Allodynia was significantly elevated for high over low and sham for all postoperative days. However, allodynia for low injury was not different than sham. A greater than three-fold increase in total allodynia resulted for high compared to low, corresponding to the three-fold difference in injury strain. Findings demonstrate tensile facet joint loading produces behavioral sensitivity that varies in magnitude according to injury severity. These results suggest that a facet joint tensile strain threshold may exist above which pain symptoms result. Continued investigation into the relationship between injury mechanics and nociceptive physiology will strengthen insight into painful facet injury mechanisms.


Postprint version. Published in Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Volume 137, Issue 2, August 30, 2004, pages 151-159.
Publisher URL:


facet joint, biomechanics, pain, strain, neck, whiplash



Date Posted: 04 February 2005

This document has been peer reviewed.