Portrait of Richard III

Richard III’s Back! What Is Scoliosis?

Portrait of Richard III

Portrait of Richard III

Richard III’s Back! – What is Scoliosis?

You may have been interested recently in the exciting discovery of Richard III‘s remains in a Leicester car park. The excavation was initiated and financed by The Richard III Society, who believe that the last Plantagenet King was wrongly vilified as a murderous despot and was, in fact, a good and popular king.

One of the stereotypes attached to the king was that he was a deformed hunchback with a withered arm and hobbling gait. The recent discovery of his bones has at least settled that conundrum – he had no withered arm and he was not a hunchback in the common perception of the word, like Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, whose type of deformity is kyphosis (below right).

Diagram showing kyphosis and scoliosis, two types of spinal curvature

However, he did indeed have a spinal deformity, known as scoliosis (above left), an S-shaped sideways curvature of the spine. But what would that mean as regards his appearance and gait? A scoliosis is quite a common spinal deformity, although the severity varies considerably. In fact, I myself have a mild scoliosis, caused by the spine’s natural compensation for a leg length discrepancy. It is so mild that it is barely noticeable, even without clothes (unless you’re an osteopath!) Your spine compensates in order to ensure your eyes are as level as possible – so one hip might be higher, the opposite shoulder, but the head will then be level.

Scoliosis can also be present at birth (congenital). Many people who have this degree of scoliosis are probably oblivious to it and it wouldn’t affect their gait or appearance much at all.

However, some types of scoliosis can be much more severe, impinging on the symmetry of the ribcage and even interfering with breathing. This type occurs more commonly in females and often begins in puberty when the body is going through a rapid growth spurt, but the complete cause is unknown. Richard appears to have had this type of scoliosis.

What would he have looked like? Because the curve in the spine was quite severe, it is likely that Richard would have held one shoulder higher than the other and one shoulder blade would be more prominent. One hip may also have been slightly higher than the other. His ribcage would also have been more prominent on one side than the other, but when clothed this would not have been obvious. This would show more on forward bending, when the more prominent side would be exaggerated.

Do you have a scoliosis? If you suspect you might, pay a visit to your osteopath and they will be able to tell you and give you advice. If you already know you have a scoliosis you can get advice and support from The British Scoliosis Society

NB:Drawing of spine with scoliosis and kyphosis
Image credit: hfsimaging / 123RF Stock Photo

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Photo of a man with back pain

Does Osteopathy Work?

One of the questions many people wonder about is whether osteopathy works.
There is now clinical evidence published which shows that osteopathy and other similar manual therapies are effective and NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) now recommends manual therapy, including osteopathy, for non-specific low back pain lasting between 6 weeks and 12 months.
 
What about other conditions?
Get Well UK has conducted a number of studies involving patients’ responses to osteopathy and other manual therapies.
Patients were referred by their GPs to various alternative/complementary therapies of which osteopathy comprised 38% of the treatments.
 
The main complaints were back/neck/shoulder pain and joint pain. A subsequent audit of 58 patients who had received at least 12 treatments found that they reported a highly significant reduction in the severity of their symptoms, increased well-being and activity and 75% said they felt less worried about their condition after treatment.
GPs found this corresponded to an improved perceived quality of life, symptoms and general health.
Here is a link to their website with more information:

Get Well UK

There have also been other studies which support the efficacy of osteopathy, which can be viewed on the National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) website:

Do you have ‘Computer Hump’?

Do you find you sit at your computer for hours at a time?
Does your job involve lots of data entry, typing or other computer activities?
Do you play games on your PC/laptop?
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING ACHING BACK AND SHOULDERS?!
If you answered “Yes” to any of these question, you could have “computer hump”!
What is “computer hump”? (No, not THAT kind of hump!)
 
Computer hump is a painful condition that develops when someone has been sitting for long periods of time in front of the computer and is caused by the joints and muscles stiffening up through being in one position for too long.
This is especially the case if you sit incorrectly, slumped or with your head and neck bent forwards.  You can develop a small “hump” at the top of your back, below your neck, also known as a Dowager’s hump.

What can you do about it?
 
Well, first of all – stop spending so long on the computer. Set a timer for half an hour so you remember to stop, get up and have a stretch after this amount of time. 
 
If at work, at least get up and stretch, visit the loo, have a tea break, etc.
Do shoulder shrugs rotating backward and forward to help loosen up the joints.
 
Make sure you have a support for your lumbar spine (low back).  This will encourage you to have better posture.
If you have any aching or pains, go and see your osteopath who will treat the problem and give you exercises or advice to help prevent it recurring.
 

Remember, the sooner you seek advice about a problem the quicker it will resolve.

Silhouette of lake at sunset

The Benefits of Meditation

Many people think that meditation is difficult and takes years of practice.  Of course, there are certain types of meditation which ARE more difficult, but anyone can benefit from the simpler types, such as guided meditation.  This is when a leader “talks you into” a meditation, relaxing your body first and then taking you on a mental journey to…anywhere!  The sky is not even the limit!

Graphic of a tropical beach scene

Tropical beach scene

When your body is in this state of relaxation, which is similar to a hypnotic trance, your brain waves change to a different rhythm, allowing your body and mind to become more and more relaxed.  This helps to restore your inner well-being and relax your physical body, leaving you feeling refreshed and calm.  Most people recognise how important the mind is as an influence on the health of the body, so improving your mind’s restfulness can only help with your physical symptoms and problems.  In short, meditation:

  • Relaxes the body
  • Rests the mind
  • Increases well-being
  • Improves general health
  • Balances the emotions
  • Increased immunity
  • improves symptoms of IBS and joint pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Induces calmness
  • May even improve fertility!

For a more detailed analysis of the health benefits click here: 7 Health Benefits of Meditation.

If you want to experience its benefits, join our meditation group!  Find out more here:  Stress-busting Meditation Group