Reality about migration of the nucleus pulposus within the intervertebral disc with changing postures



      Previous studies reported that, in non-degenerate discs, the nucleus pulposus migrates posteriorly during flexion and anteriorly during extension within the intervertebral disc. However, in these studies the differences between anterior and posterior distances have been regarded as an indicator of nucleus pulposus migration. This study investigated the reality of migration of the nucleus pulposus within the intervertebral disc with changing postures.


      Magnetic resonance images were obtained of the lumbar spines of 25 asymptomatic volunteers in sitting, standing and supine postures. The anterior and posterior height of the intervertebral disc, the anterior -posterior length of the intervertebral disc and nucleus pulposus, and the positions of the anterior and posterior margins of the nucleus were measured from mid-line sagittal images.


      Changing postures altered the anterior and posterior height of the disc and three types of morphological changes, including changes in the anterior -posterior lengths of the intervertebral disc and nucleus pulposus, together with the position of the nucleus in the disc were found. The length of the intervertebral disc and nucleus pulposus changed under the variations in spinal loading caused by posture.


      The results of this study indicated that the apparent nucleus pulposus migration within intervertebral disc is actually deformation of the nucleus pulposus length which depends on posture and the magnitude of the load. In other words, adopting different postures deforms the nucleus pulposus and therefore, changes the position of the nucleus pulposus but there is no apparent nucleus pulposus migration within the intervertebral disc.


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