Recent Advances in Coupled MBS and FEM Models of the Spine—A Review

Kati Nispel, Tanja Lerchl, Veit Senner, Jan S. Kirschke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


How back pain is related to intervertebral disc degeneration, spinal loading or sports-related overuse remains an unanswered question of biomechanics. Coupled MBS and FEM simulations can provide a holistic view of the spine by considering both the overall kinematics and kinetics of the spine and the inner stress distribution of flexible components. We reviewed studies that included MBS and FEM co-simulations of the spine. Thereby, we classified the studies into unidirectional and bidirectional co-simulation, according to their data exchange methods. Several studies have demonstrated that using unidirectional co-simulation models provides useful insights into spinal biomechanics, although synchronizing the two distinct models remains a key challenge, often requiring extensive manual intervention. The use of a bidirectional co-simulation features an iterative, automated process with a constant data exchange between integrated subsystems. It reduces manual corrections of vertebra positions or reaction forces and enables detailed modeling of dynamic load cases. Bidirectional co-simulations are thus a promising new research approach for improved spine modeling, as a main challenge in spinal biomechanics is the nonlinear deformation of the intervertebral discs. Future studies will likely include the automated implementation of patient-specific bidirectional co-simulation models using hyper- or poroelastic intervertebral disc FEM models and muscle forces examined by an optimization algorithm in MBS. Applications range from clinical diagnosis to biomechanical analysis of overload situations in sports and injury prediction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number315
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • biomechanics
  • co-simulation
  • coupled
  • degeneration
  • finite element method
  • intervertebral disc
  • multibody simulation
  • spinal loading
  • spine
  • sports


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