At Dynamic Disc Designs, we believe research to be the foundation of our spine models so practitioners in musculoskeletal health feel confident in the use of an accurate model while they educate patients about their findings.  Historically, models have been inaccurate and most critically, static, making it very difficult for the doctor to be convincing to the patient in the accuracy of diagnosis.

Research is at the roots of any practice. It fuels practice guidelines and directs both the patient and practitioner down the best path of care. Our models help support that voyage. We have worked hard to bring the best to practitioners of musculoskeletal science by scouring databases of spine science, to arrive at the most accurate model for teaching possible.

With over 1000 papers read in full text, Dr. Jerome Fryer leads the way by making sure our models are keeping up to the standards of best evidence. Weekly literature searches on keywords that surround musculoskeletal health are at the core roots of Dynamic Disc Designs.

vacuum sign

Vacuum sign is a common radiological finding. It is also referred to as a vacuum phenomenon and often associated with degenerative spinal discs, knee joints, hip joints, and shoulder joints.  Degenerative spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition whereby one vertebra slips on another. However, it is sometimes difficult to ascertain whether this slippage is stable or not. A more than 4mm movement defines instability, but some have indicated only 2mm as clinically significant.

degenerative spondylolisthesis model

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Dynamic Disc Model

In a research paper published in World Surgery, 1 a group of authors looked at the vacuum sign in the facet joint as an indication of degenerative instability of the spine. They wanted to investigate the relationship between the vacuum facet phenomenon and lumbar instability. Why, you may ask? More and more research is directing spine researchers to the cause of pain and disability to the imbalance of motion of the individual vertebral segments of the spine. Some have coined this motion sharing.

Each vertebral motion segment consists of two vertebrae, and a disc should have a certain stiffness level. That is, it should move similar to its adjacent segment above and below in the spinal column. For this study, they looked at L4 on L5 (which is a prevalent spinal level to degenerate with age) and used flexion/ extension X-rays in both the fully bent forward (flexion) and the fully bending backwards (extension) with degenerative spondylolisthesis. Additionally, when available, they also looked at CAT scans of these same patients. To determine the slippage degree, they used a dynamic motion index to measure the degree of slippage.

In a total of 67 patients examined, 35 patients had vacuum signs on their CAT scan, and 32 patients did not. The degree of slippage appeared to correlate with the vacuum sign as well. That is, the more the vertebrae had slipped forward, the more likelihood of the presence of the vacuum sign. With this, the authors concluded a linear correlation between the degree of slippage and the presence of vacuum sign.

Commentary by Jerome Fryer

Vacuum sign or vacuum phenomenon is often considered an incidental finding. However, based on the modelling research I’ve done, I believe that the vacuum sign can be a clue into joint mechanics’ stiffness. In 2017 I published an article related to the cracking event we are familiar with, and in there, I believe in having revealed the vacuum phenomenon. In the presence of cavitation, a joint will have less stiffness, and in time I hope we can collectively use these radiographic findings to help us determine which joint requires more stability in the treatment of them. JF

The Dynamic Sitting Exercise (DSE)

Life can be busy. And with this busyness, people often do not have the time for lower back pain exercises. In 2010, Jerome Fryer (the owner and developer of Dynamic Disc Designs Corp.) set out to measure a simple seated decompression strategy for the lumbar spine. A pilot study used an upright MRI to investigate changes in the lumbar spine before and after this Dynamic Sitting Exercise (DSE) 1

It was originally coined “chair-care decompression exercise” to make it memorable. In a recent article written in the Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, the researchers renamed it DSE and compared it to the popular McKenzie prone press-up. 2

 

Dynamic Sitting Exercise

Dynamic Sitting Exercise (DSE)

 

McKenzie Prone Press-up

McKenzie Prone Press-up

These researchers recruited thirty adults in the age range of 20-30 years with mechanical low back pain. To read the full inclusion and exclusion criteria, you can visit the full-text link in the references below. They randomly assigned the participants to two groups: the DSE group or the McKenzie prone press-up group. Each subject conducted 6 repetitions within the 5-minute interval with the exercises being conducted at the beginning of the 5 minutes, followed by 4 minutes of rest. Over the course of 30 minutes, each participant would have performed 6 repetitions multiplied by 5 sets for a total of 30 repetitions over the course of 30 minutes. This was equivalent to 2.5 minutes of active exercise over the course of 30 minutes.

Exercise Protocol

Exercise Protocol

 

The DSE instructions included:

  1. sit upright
  2. place hands-on seat pan
  3. push down on the seat pan to offload the lower spine
  4. participants should feel a slight stretching in the lower back
  5. hold for 5 seconds
  6. return to neutral for 5 seconds
  7. while returning to neutral, draw-in-abdomen.

 

The McKenzie Prone Press-Up instructions included:

  1. lie down on the abdomen
  2. extend back while on elbows and palms down (neutral position)
  3. perform press-up maneuver with straight arms for 5 seconds
  4. return to neutral for 5 seconds

 

Over 6 weeks, outcome measures included the Visual Analog Scale for pain and the Short Form-36 Health Survey Questionaire for quality of life.

What did they conclude?

Both forms of exercise demonstrated improvement of pain and quality of life. However, the DSE outperformed the McKenzie Prone Press-up in this group of mechanical low back pain adults.

Overall, this paper could have been written a little better. Their conclusions were bold and overly confident. It is still an important paper to share as the practicality of investing a few seconds of offloading to your work-day while sitting looks to be promising in those with lower back pain in this age range.

 

lordosis. degenrative joint disease

Flat Back (Lack of Lumbar Lordosis) and Disc Herniation

Lordosis, or the lack of it, has been thought to be a biomechanical precursor to disc herniation in the lumbar spine. To investigate this possible correlation, a group of researchers from Gothenburg University looked at sixteen young active young patients with a median age of 18yrs old who experienced a disc herniation and underwent discectomy surgery. 1

Lordosis is the curve in the lower back—which they measured before and after the surgery.

Lordosis

Researchers used the Roussouly 4-type classification system to measure the degree of lordosis in the lumbar spine.

The researchers found less lordosis in the subjects that had surgery for their disc herniation. In other words, disc herniation was twice as likely to be present in the group with a flatter back. All the disc herniations were found to be in the lowest two levels of the lumbar spine (L4-5 and L5-S1), consistent with other epidemiological studies. 2

Dynamic Disc Designs Models

At Dynamic Disc Designs Corp. we have worked to represent the anatomy accurately. Our Professional LxH  Dynamic Disc Model is created with 12mm of disc height anteriorly and 10mm posteriorly providing a slight lordotic curve. Further, the model has been created with a higher percentage of nucleus pulposus which is often found in younger lumbar spines. To demonstrate that disc herniation occurs more likely with less lordosis all one has to do is dynamically move the single-level model into a less lordosis position and manually create compression. With more lordosis, the nucleus has a more difficult time penetrating through the outer annulus fissure. This can be an important posture teaching point in the prevention of disc herniation.

If you want to take your patient education to a dynamic level, explore what Dynamic Disc Designs models can do for you, your practice and ultimately, your patients.

plastic models

Plastic Models and Sciatica

Pathology is common with lower back pain. However, it is difficult for professionals to share this information with a sciatica patient. A recent publication1 recorded notes with interviews between thirteen patients and their low back pain practitioners. The discussions around sciatica were interesting.

Some of the comments coming from participants included:

‘The way I understand it is my disc is inflamed so it’s bulging, so it’s bigger than normal, and
that’s why it’s pressing.’

 

‘The discs are abnormal and they’re bulging […] if they’re bulging, surely there’s got to be a way
of getting them back to normal and when they’re back to normal I won’t have that pain.’

 

‘A sports masseur I went to, to check my alignment. He said my alignments were fine. And the
physio told me my alignments were out. So, I kind of … I don’t think anybody really knows what
they’re doing, to be honest.’

There is a disconnect between a patient, their symptoms and what the caregivers are telling them.

In this study, the authors reported that the practitioners caring for these pain people were constructing sciatica concepts with the influence of a plastic model. The authors also stated that “participants valued clear information on their diagnosis and appreciated the use of plastic models of the spine to help explanations.”

At Dynamic Disc Designs, we have worked hard to help practitioners deliver truthful and anatomically accurate details about a patient’s sciatica symptoms. Our plastic spine models are more than just plastic; they are dynamic and move realistically. We hope, one day, our models are used as a comparison against the traditional static models. Our plastic models were not used in this study.

 

 

 

 

 

facet osteoarthritis

Facet osteoarthritis pain is common and thought to be a significant contributor to back pain in the US. Within the United States, it costs 100 Billion dollars annually to combat this endemic problem. However, back pain can originate from many anatomical structures, and the facet joint is only one of them but thought by many as significant. Other common pain structures are the intervertebral discs in the case of disc bulges, disc extrusions, disc protrusions and frank nuclear sequestration. There are also more severe causes of back pain like aneurysm and other organ pathology, so it is crucial to have a professional look carefully at the diagnostics of each case.

In the case of mechanical lower back pain (others use the term non-specific lower back pain), the facet joint garners good attention. The word ‘facet’ comes from the French facette (12c., Old French facete), diminutive of face “face, appearance” and are two anatomical structures that reside behind the intervertebral disc.

Facet osteoarthritis

Modeling facet osteoarthritis is tricky because of the complexity of motion at the spinal level. The intervertebral disc height plays a role with respective facet compression because it resides on the front of the spinal motion segment. It is this compression thought to be contributing to back pain.

Clincally, facet osteoarthritis pain is often unilateral in nature

In a study conducted recently 1, researchers worked to induce facet joint arthritis by creating compression with a spring. Over time the researchers found the increased expression of interleukin‑1β and tumour necrosis factor‑α expression. In other words, with more compression elapsing over time, the more the expression of the molecules related to many low back pain patients.

This is an important study linking the mechanics of compression and the associated physiology of molecules, which are thought to be markers of back pain patients.

At Dynamic Disc Designs, we have developed models to help explain the associated compression of facet joints as it relates to disc height loss and gains. We are committed to bringing the best in modelling. Explore our website for more.

Crack Propagation Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is common and causes much disability in the world to many. It is a joint condition that causes pain, which often leads people to seek therapy. Despite the efforts to learn the underlying causes, researchers have been confused as to the source and propagation of degenerative osteoarthritic changes. We know that surface injury to cartilage can occur from high-risk competitive sports and result in the development of osteoarthritis; the precise reasons as to this has eluded researchers in the field. Understanding the mechanobiology of the early stages of OA when micro-cracks start will be an important piece of the puzzle in the prevention of osteoarthritis.

Just this month, a group of researchers out of the University of Calgary, looked at the finer micro-structure of the cartilage. 1 They looked at crack propagation (micro-fracturing) of the cartilage to get a better understanding of the load and respective magnitude as it relates to the damage. Their objective included looking carefully at the local strain distribution of the cartilage nearby to the microcracks.

What did they do?

Cylindrical osteochondral punch plugs were harvested from pig knees and fixed to a custom design compression testing device. The cartilage thickness was measured at three different locations of the surface. To prevent dehydration, which can often occur in these testing environments and affect the results, they fully immersed the sample in a phosphate-buffered solution. The thickness of the cartilage was measured using light microscopy. Measures of strain were applied. To simulate the crack in the cartilage found in-vivo, vertical cuts were made in the cartilage at the most superficial part of the surface cartilage along with the middle zone.

What did they find out?

Axial strains were significantly more abundant at the damage zone compared to the non-damaged cartilage. This indicates that the ability of the cartilage to resist compression is less in the damaged or micro fractured cartilage, disrupting the biomechanics.

Crack Propagation Osteoarthritis

 

What can we take away from this study?

The drive to learn about osteoarthritis is essential. Billions of dollars are spent annually for a multitude of therapeutics, including joint replacement, injections, pharmaceuticals and manual therapy. By learning about how cracks propagate in the cartilage and, ultimately, how we prevent the development of osteoarthritis will be a great asset to the planet.

At Dynamic Disc Designs, we work to follow the research and work to bring that to the doctor-patient engagement process. Our latest modelling now includes a crack in the cartilage of the facet joint.

 

 

Disc Herniation Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is the slippage of one vertebra on another—frequently found with disc herniation. However, in this recent paper titled: “Over-reporting of the disc herniation in lumbar spine MRI scans performed for patients with spondylolisthesis” 1 they sought to find if disc herniation is over-reported and in turn, possibly over-treated.

Spondylolisthesis is best diagnosed when the spine is under load. Many MRI scans, because done in the lie-down position, miss these small (or large) slippages. To accurately assess one for a spondylolisthesis, the spine is best visualized by x-ray in the forward bending and backward bending position. Upright MRI is also another great way to assess; however, the access to these expensive machines may not be available.

The authors of the above paper discuss how it is imperative to find an accurate diagnosis for both the conservative and surgical management of back pain.

Disc herniation is often found with spondylolisthesis. However, what they found was disc herniation reporting was often over-reported and believed that the disc herniation was more of a pseudo disc herniation rather than an actual disc herniation.

 

What do the authors mean by pseudo-herniation?

 

The authors point to a nomenclature issue. In Fardon’s 2014 paper 2 he helps clarify the language professionals use when discussing disc herniation, extrusion, protrusion and bulge. However, the authors of this paper explain that Fardon’s article does not address this nomenclature in light of spondylolisthesis.

 

They point out in this retrospective study of 258 patients that disc herniation was over-reported because the disc herniation was read with the superior vertebra in mind rather than referencing the lower vertebra. In other words, if the radiological reporting used the lower vertebra as a reference point, the reporting of a disc herniation would be much less because the outer disc border remained anterior to the posterior vertebral ring apophysis. Therefore, it is essential to deferentially diagnose whether symptoms are related to a real disc herniation or due to the mechanics of a spondylolisthesis. A spondylolisthesis can throw off the reporting in this case.

 

 

Dynamic Disc Designs creates 3d models to help reveal the dynamics of disc herniation, including the up-roofing of the disc material. This mechanism is shown in our Professional LxH Model, with the added features of spondylolisthesis.