'King Richard III underwent treatments for curved spine'
London: The 15th-Century English King Richard III had to bear painful medical treatments for his spinal curvature, according to a new research.
The remains of Richard III discovered in a Leicester car park, earlier this year, revealed that the monarch suffered from severe scoliosis, which he probably developed in early adolescence.
Dr Mary Ann Lund from the University of Leicester carried out research into the kinds of scoliosis treatments available at the time Richard III was alive.
Scoliosis - a lateral or side-to-side curvature of the spine - can be a very painful condition to live with. But some of the treatments practised in the late medieval period would have themselves caused sufferers a lot of anguish.
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.
Richard III would certainly have been able to afford the highest levels of medical care available - and his physicians would have been well aware of the standard "traction" methods for treating the condition.
Lund also charted the influence of Greek philosopher Hippocrates - who developed early prototype methods of dealing with spinal disorders - to the 11th century Persian polymath Avicenna.
Avicenna's treatises on medicine and philosophy were highly regarded in Medieval Europe. His theories on using traction in scoliosis treatment would have been widely read and practised by doctors in Richard III's lifetime.
Avicenna also advocated the massage techniques practised in Turkish baths, and herbal applications, as treatments for back disorders. In the longer term, patients might wear a long piece of wood or metal in an attempt to straighten their back.
"Scoliosis is a painful illness, and Richard would have been in quite a lot of pain on a daily basis. These methods could also have been very painful - but people would have expected treatments to be unpleasant," Lund said.
"Medical practices could exacerbate conditions rather than improving them.
These treatments would have only been open to people in the upper echelons. Richard would have probably received these treatments because he was a member of the nobility," Lund said.
Richard III ruled England from 1483 to 1485. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, bringing to an end a two-year dynastic struggle known as the Wars of the Roses.