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Physical forces have been hypothesized to direct the process of bone regeneration during distraction osteogenesis. However, despite significant clinical experience, relatively little is known about how the mechanics of distraction influence bone formation. This study investigated net fixator forces and strains in the distraction callus during bilateral lengthening of tibiae in New Zealand White rabbits. Distractions yielded a classic viscoelastic response with a sharp increase in fixator force, followed immediately by significant relaxation. Tension acting on mesenchymal gap tissue caused by distraction was estimated to reach more than 30 N by the time full lengthening was achieved. Average maximum cyclic strains within the distraction zone during ambulation were estimated to be 14% to 15% and supported by the results of fluoroscopic imaging. Paradigms for fracture healing have hypothesized that such strains are incompatible with new bone formation. The documented clinical success of distraction osteogenesis at stimulating large volumes of new bone suggests that other mechanisms that warrant additional investigation may be at work during distraction.