UK & World News

  • 19 April 2013, 16:55

Richard III: Did King Have Painful Treatment?

King Richard III, whose remains were found under a council car park, may have had painful treatments for his spinal curvature, research has suggested.

The 15th century monarch suffered from severe scoliosis, which he probably developed in early adolescence.

It is a condition that can be very painful to live with - but some of the treatments practised in the late medieval period would have also caused sufferers a lot of anguish.

Among the "cures" 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 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.

In February, Leicester University experts confirmed a skeleton unearthed in the city was that of the king who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The skeleton was found in the remains of the choir of the Greyfriars church, which now lies under a social services office car park.

Dr Mary Ann Lund, from the university, carried out research into the kinds of scoliosis treatments available at the time Richard was alive.

They included looking at 11th century Persian polymath Avicenna's theories on using traction.

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.

Dr Lund said: "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.

"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."

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