Friday, April 19, 2013

Richard III and the treatment of scoliosis



Spare a thought for the young Richard: according to this podcast from the University of Leicester, it was no picnic having scoliosis in the late Middle Ages:
Dr Mary Ann Lund ... who has a special interest in medicine in history, says some of the treatments for scoliosis practised in the late medieval period would have themselves caused people with the condition a lot of anguish. 
The remains of Richard III discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists revealed that the King suffered from severe scoliosis, which he probably developed in early adolescence. Scoliosis – a lateral or side-to-side curvature of the spine – can be a very painful condition to live with. 
Among the “cures” practised was traction – the same principle on which “the Rack” worked as an instrument of torture. 
The patient would be tied under the armpits and round the legs. The ropes were then pulled at either end, often on a wooden roller, to stretch the patient’s spine. 
The treatment would probably have only been available to those who could afford it.
If you listen, note the mention of Church Langton's Polydore Virgil.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

My father had traction on the NHS in the late 1970 for a back problem!

Mike Carter said...

This is very interesting, thanks so much for sharing. My brother is receiving treatment for scoliosis so that is why I am so enamored with the topic. I've seen the back brace he has to wear, and it looks extremely uncomfortable!