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Engineering solutions to spine injury and disease

An article written by ISE Honda Chair Professor and Spine Research Institute Executive & Scientific Director Bill Marras is featured as the cover story in the October issue of ASME's Mechanical Engineering.

spine researchThe article titled "Secrets of the Spine" details 30 years of research led by Marras and the wide array of applications already resulting in healthcare cost reductions, as well as better diagnoses and more targeted treatment of back pain.

Selected excerpts:

Lower back pain is the second most common reason people visit their physicians and the world’s leading cause of disability. In the United States alone, back pain accounts for more than 100 million annual lost work days and $90 billion in treatment costs. That is as much as we spend fighting cancer. The culprit is usually the spine.

Our biomechanical models are not mere academic exercises. We have used them to redesign tasks to reduce the risk of spinal injuries on assembly lines and in such professions as nursing. Our most recent work seeks to provide physicians and surgeons with more precise ways to diagnose and treat back pain.

To get there, however, our biomechanical models had to come a long, long way.

For the past 30 years, the Spine Research Institute has sought to discover the causal pathways of back pain. We knew our answer started with a force, and we turned to biomechanics to understand how that force creates muscular or structural problems in the spine.

This is because spines are like teeth. We all have teeth, but some are large, small, straight or crooked. The spine is the same way. We all have one, but it is unique. The devil is always in the details. Dentists navigate those details by taking an X-ray, checking our bite, and poking and prodding our teeth and gums.

Read the full article here.