Axial load-dependent cervical spinal alterations during simulated upright posture: a comparison of healthy controls and patients with cervical degenerative disease

J Neurosurg Spine. 2005 Feb;2(2):137-44. doi: 10.3171/spi.2005.2.2.0137.


Object: The objectives of this study were to simulate the upright loading condition in the cervical spine by applying a new compression device during supine posture and to assess intervertebral angles and cross-sectional areas of the spinal cord and dural tube before and during axial compression.

Methods: A magnetic resonance (MR) imaging-compatible device was developed to create axial compression with the patient in the supine position. Lateral radiographs were obtained in upright and supine positions with an axial load of 0% (supine) and by applying a cervical compression device at 7, 10, and 13% of body weight (BW) in 18 control individuals and seven symptomatic patients with cervical degenerative disc disease (DDD). Additionally, cervical MR images acquired in 17 controls and 12 patients were compared before and during an axial load of 8.4% BW in terms of anteroposterior diameter and cross-sectional area of the dural sac. The supine intervertebral angles with loads of 0, 7, 10, and 13% of the individuals' BW relative to upright posture were -8.1+/-1.3, -2.3+/-1.4, 1.3+/-1.9, and 2.8+/-2 degrees, respectively. Subsequent axial force was interpolated as 8.9% of BW to simulate upright cervical spine alignment. Under an axial loading similar to that created by the upright posture, the dural sac narrowed at the C5-6 interspace in asymptomatic individuals and at the C6-7 interspace in patients with cervical DDD.

Conclusions: This cervical compression device may be a useful tool to simulate upright cervical spinal alignment. The results of this study help in understanding the pathophysiology of symptoms related to cervical degenerative disorders in upright posture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology*
  • Compressive Strength
  • Dura Mater / pathology
  • Dura Mater / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiopathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Radiculopathy / diagnosis
  • Radiculopathy / physiopathology*
  • Reference Values
  • Spinal Osteophytosis / diagnosis
  • Spinal Osteophytosis / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Osteophytosis / surgery
  • Supine Position / physiology
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*