Structural vibration testing might be a promising method to study the mechanical properties of spinal motion segments as an alternative to imaging and spinal manipulation techniques. Structural vibration testing is a non-destructive measurement technique that measures the response of a system to an applied vibration as a function of frequency, and allows determination of modal parameters such as resonance frequencies (ratio between stiffness and mass), vibration modes (pattern of motion) and damping. The objective of this study was to determine if structural vibration testing can reveal the resonance frequencies that correspond to the mode shapes flexion-extension, lateroflexion and axial rotation of lumbar motion segments, and to establish whether resonance frequencies can discriminate specific structural alterations of the motion segment. Therefore, a shaker was used to vibrate the upper vertebra of 16 goat lumbar motion segments, while the response was obtained from accelerometers on the transverse and spinous processes and the anterior side of the upper vertebra. Measurements were performed in three conditions: intact, after dissection of the ligaments and after puncturing the annulus fibrosus. The results showed clear resonance peaks for flexion-extension, lateral bending and axial rotation for all segments. Dissection of the ligaments did not affect the resonance frequencies, but puncturing the annulus reduced the resonance frequency of axial rotation. These results indicate that vibration testing can be utilised to assess the modal parameters of lumbar motion segments, and might eventually be used to study the mechanical properties of spinal motion segments in vivo. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.