Objective: To evaluate the relationship between load-carrying on the head and the development of degenerative change in the cervical spine.
Design and subjects: A case-control study was performed with 35 individuals who had carried loads on their head (carriers) and 35 persons who never had carrier loads on their head (non-carriers). A scoring system was utilized for the assessment of the degenerative change in the cervical spine at the C3/C4, C4/C5, C5/C6 and C6/C7 levels on lateral cervical spine radiography. A total score was calculated by summing the scores for the single segments.
Results and conclusion: In 31 of the 35 (88.6%) carriers degenerative change was found in the cervical spine, but only in 8 of the 35 (22.9%) non-carriers (P < 0.01). The total score and the scores for segments C4/5, C5/C6 anc C6/C7 were significantly higher for the carriers than the non-carriers. It is concluded that the axial strain of load-carrying on the head exacerbates degenerative change in the cervical spine.