Painful Spine Injury in Children and Young Adults: Integrated Biomechanics and Pain Modeling

Principal InvestigatorBeth Winkelstein, PhD, University of Pennsylvania


Below is an executive summary of this project. Please note that this summary describes results and interpretation that may not be final. Final interpretation of results will be in the peer-reviewed literature.


There is mounting evidence that biomechanics and age modulate both pain symptoms and why pain may persist. For example, in some people repeated pain from an acute injury changes the way the brain reacts. Even after the injury has healed, pain messages replay over and over again. Little, however, is known about the mechanisms for differences in the pain response, including children that suffer painful spinal injuries.

Using integrated biomechanical and pain modeling methods, researchers conducted this study to find out if pain from spinal injury is age-dependent. They expanded on an in vivo model of spinal facet-mediated painful injury to provide injury data for children and young adults to evaluate the role of age in painful neck injuries, as well as whether and how the tolerances and mechanisms for this class of injuries are altered in populations of different ages.

The investigators used in vivo models because computer modeling and research on cadavers have limitations. “Computer and cadaver modeling can only suggest and conjecture,” explains Dr. Winkelstein. “Until we translate the research into physical and chemical responses, we won’t know exactly what’s going on. You can’t treat a cadaver.”

This CChIPS study adds to Dr. Winkelstein’s body of work to help scientists better understand the body’s response to pain in order to determine optimum treatment. This research significantly adds to a relatively limited knowledge of these crucial areas in the field.


IAB Mentors:
Christina Mullen, Toyota Motor North America Inc.; Rodney Rudd, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

About This Center

This Center is made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which unites CHOP, University of Pennsylvania, and The Ohio State University researchers with R&D leaders in the automotive and insurance industries to translate research findings into tangible innovations in safety technology and public education programs.

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