The future may be here now. Researchers at the Dartmouth Spine Center are testing a dynamic stabilization system called the fulcrum assisted soft stabilization or FASS. The goal is to hold the spine steady while taking pressure off the discs and allowing normal motion.
A special two-piece system of fulcrum and ligament is being tested. Stainless steel screws are placed into the pedicles of the vertebra above and below the damaged disc. The pedicles are bony stalks that project out behind the body of the vertebra. It helps form the arch of bone that curves around the spinal cord to protect it.
A plastic fulcrum is inserted between the two screws. Behind that at the end of the screws, a rubber "O" ring is wrapped around the ends of the two screws and acts as a ligament. By adjusting the tension of the screws, pressure can be taken off the discs and motion can be loosened or stiffened up.
Researchers are just at the prototype stage of study right now. Finding the right materials and testing for device fatigue are the next steps.