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What is Spinal Biomechanical Engineering?

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

Have you ever seen a person remove their coat, then notice a significant curve in their spine (scoliosis) ? It may not have been noticeable at first, or when walking by, but you may wonder how they can function from day-to-day. You might compare spinal biomechanics to structural engineering.

In the article:

What Is Structural Engineering & What Do Structural Engineers Do? (2019, May 11). we find a great comparison: "Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering that involves the application of the laws of physics, mathematics and empirical knowledge to safely design the ‘bones’ and load bearing elements of man made structures. Modern day structural engineering provides a large and detailed body of knowledge that can accurately predict the performance of different shapes and materials used in structures to resist loads and stresses on structures. The principles of structural engineering were used thousands of years ago when building structures like the pyramids in Egypt or the Acropolis in Greece."

Spinal biomechanical engineering is very similar, utilizing physics, mathematics, and knowledge of the spine and how it compensates, creates balance or a "plumb line" to adapt to the environment and loads in gravity. Our brains are constantly receiving feedback from movement and pressure receptors in the ligaments, muscles and joints that tell us where we are positionally, and our brain can then direct movement and corrective measures to optimize function. What about abnormal loads and stressors on structures? What about micro or macro-traumatic events that affect anatomic structures and their ability to properly bear weight and movement? How do bones respond to specific loads they are not designed to withstand in certain areas over time? It's called Wolff's Law, and bones remodel according to the stress placed upon them. You might call it arthritis, bone spurs, osteoporosis, scoliosis or other spinal conditions.

Medically, if there is not an easily seen anatomic or pathologic problem, it is often diagnosed as "non-specific" back pain. However, as the research from biomechanical engineering studies is finally reaching the clinical setting, we are finding more and more that back pain is actually "very specific". With the proper training, tools and diagnostics, examination, patient feedback, and diagnosis, it is time to collaborate and manage spinal conditions to better address a major public health issue and that daily nagging back pain so many of us deal with!


Think about how your spine moves as one organ system! Further, consider how one area of our bodies affect another, from head to toe. Increase your awareness and try to position your body (posture at work, on an airplane, weightlifting, etc) in a way that is most optimal. Find a professional to help coach you more specifically on how to achieve this!

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