The occurrence of symmetric disc degeneration, anular ruptures, end-plate defects, vertebral body osteophytosis, and facet joint osteoarthrosis was examined radiographically and osteologically in 86 male cadavers for whom occupational, physical loading, and back pain histories were obtained from the men's families. History of back pain and the parameters of spinal pathology were related to the highest and lowest degrees of physical loading. In multivariate analyses, history of back injury was related to the occurrence of symmetric disc degeneration, anular ruptures, and vertebral osteophytosis. Symmetric disc degeneration was associated with sedentary work, and vertebral osteophytosis was related to heavy work. History of back pain was related to occupational physical loading after control for the effects of the other covariates. The results indicate that the least pathology stemmed from moderate or mixed physical loading, but the least back pain was associated with sedentary work.