Mechanical basis of bone strength: Influence of bone material, bone structure and muscle action

Nicolas H. Hart, S. Nimphius, T. Rantalainen, A. Ireland, A. Siafarikas, R. U. Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

204 Citations (Scopus)


This review summarises current understanding of how bone is sculpted through adaptive processes, designed to meet the mechanical challenges it faces in everyday life and athletic pursuits, serving as an update for clinicians, researchers and physical therapists. Bone’s ability to resist fracture under the large muscle and locomotory forces it experiences during movement and in falls or collisions is dependent on its established mechanical properties, determined by bone’s complex and multidimensional material and structural organisation. At all levels, bone is highly adaptive to habitual loading, regulating its structure according to components of its loading regime and mechanical environment, inclusive of strain magnitude, rate, frequency, distribution and deformation mode. Indeed, the greatest forces habitually applied to bone arise from muscular contractions, and the past two decades have seen substantial advances in our understanding of how these forces shape bone throughout life. Herein, we also highlight the limitations of in vivo methods to assess and understand bone collagen, and bone mineral at the material or tissue level. The inability to easily measure or closely regulate applied strain in humans is identified, limiting the translation of animal studies to human populations, and our exploration of how components of mechanical loading regimes influence mechanoadaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-139
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Musculoskeletal Neuronal Interactions
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Frequency
  • Injury
  • Load
  • Magnitude
  • Rate
  • Strain
  • Tolerance


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