There is currently no universal model or fitting method to characterize the visco-elastic behavior of the lumbar spine observed in displacement versus load hysteresis loops. In this study, proposed methods for fitting these loops, along with the metrics obtained, were thoroughly analyzed. A spline fitting technique was shown to provide a consistent approximation of spinal kinetic behavior that can be differentiated and integrated. Using this tool, previously established metrics were analyzed using data from two separate studies evaluating different motion preservation technologies. Many of the metrics, however, provided no significant differences beyond range of motion analysis. Particular attention was paid to how different definitions of the neutral zone capture the high-flexibility region often seen in lumbar hysteresis loops. As a result, the maximum slope was introduced and shown to be well defined. This new parameter offers promise as a descriptive measurement of spinal instability in vitro and may have future implications in clinical diagnosis and treatment of spinal instability. In particular, it could help in assigning treatments to specific stabilizing effects in the lumbar spine.

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