Trabecular bone density and loading history: Regulation of connective tissue biology by mechanical energy

D. R. Carter, David P Fyhrie, R. T. Whalen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

419 Scopus citations


The method of considering a single loading condition in the study of stress/morphology relationships in trabecular bone is expanded to include the multiple loading conditions experienced by bone in vivo. The bone daily loading histories are characterized in terms of stress magnitudes or cyclic strain energy density and the number of loading cycles. Relationships between local bone apparent density and loading history are developed which assume that bone mass is adjusted in response to strength or energy considerations. Three different bone maintenance criteria are described which are formulated based upon: (1) continuum model effective stress, (2) continuum model fatigue damage accumulation density, and (3) bone tissue strain energy density. These approaches can be applied to predict variations in apparent density within bone and among bones. We show that all three criteria have similar mathematical forms and may be related to the density (or concentration) of bone strain energy which is transferred (dissipated) in the mineralized tissue. The loading history and energy transfer concepts developed here can be applied to many different situations of growth, functional adaptation, injury, and aging of connective tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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