Scoliosis, hunchbacks and other Richard III stuff!

I can’t help it, as a physio and a historian I have got to get this off my chest. There have been lots of comment about Richard III and his scoliosis – a sideways deformity of the spine – and whether he was also a ‘hunchback’ and if so how could he have worn armour.

In most instances a marked scoliosis – that is one visible to the naked eye and not requiring modern imaging to unmask – will also have some axial rotation of the vertebrae. As the ribs attach to these same vertebrae any rotation  of the spine is exaggerated. This causes  the ribs to be more prominent on one side than the other and creates what is popular termed a ‘hunchback’.

It is clear Richard III had a significant scoliosis in his thoracic spine; he therefore inevitably had an asymmetric rib cage and ‘hunchback’. Having one without the other, whilst not impossible, is probably as rare as hens teeth! The whole debate of whether he had a hunchback as well as a scoliosis should never have got off the ground – it is a non question.

The other ridiculous comment is ‘how did he wear armour?’ Do the people who ask this think he  bought it off the peg from John Lewis?  He was the king not  a pauper – he had his armour made for him as did everyone else. He would have been able to move within this as well as anyone.  His body would have adapted  to the restrictions imposed by the scoliosis. One of (possibly the only!)  benefit of dying aged thirty two is that he avoided the worst of  the back and neck pain that plagues most people with scoliosis from middle age onwards making their later years a misery. Even  a king can’t avoid that.

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One Response to Scoliosis, hunchbacks and other Richard III stuff!

  1. You should tell that to those Ricardians that bought into the whole “everything the Tudors said about him was a lie” idea, not realizing that the nastiest lies are often just truths exaggerated and misrepresented. They refuse to accept that Richard, with his curved spine, could have been such a competent fighter.

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