The soft, collagen-rich shock absorbers in our backs, known as intervertebral discs, both add to our height (a full quarter of the spinal column's total length) and cushion our vertebrae from contacting one another. Unfortunately, aging, accidents and overuse can damage them and lead to the costly phenomenon of chronic back pain – roughly US$100 billion is spent annually on treatment in the U.S. alone. Replacement
of damaged discs, rather than spinal fusion, is an option that's growing in popularity, especially because it helps maintain mobility in the spine. Now, a team from Brigham Young University (BYU) has unveiled their new artificial disc, a compliant mechanism that they believe has the potential to restore quality of life to millions of those with injured spines.