Spine

A very pronounced curve in the spine was visible when the body was first uncovered, evidence of scoliosis which may have meant that Richard’s right shoulder was noticeably higher than his left.

As well as the curve that was visible when the skeleton was excavated, evidence of scoliosis can be seen in many of the individual vertebrae. The appearance of these bones should be symmetrical, but the image shows that many of the vertebrae had abnormalities in their shape.

The type of scoliosis seen here is known as idiopathic adolescent onset scoliosis. The word idiopathic means that the reason for its development is not entirely clear, although there is probably a genetic component. The term adolescent onset indicates that the deformity wasn’t present at birth, but developed after the age of ten.

It is quite possible that the scoliosis would have been progressive, continuing to get worse as Richard got older. It would have put pressure on his lungs and may have caused shortness of breath, but clearly did not stop him from leading an active lifestyle.

  • close up photograph of the spine
  • Two vertebrae showing some abnormal features relating to the scoliosis. The spinous processes of the vertebrae (pointing down), which should be straight, are twisted to one side. The joints between vertebrae show signs of osteoarthritis.
    Two vertebrae showing some abnormal features relating to the scoliosis. The spinous processes of the vertebrae (pointing down), which should be straight, are twisted to one side. The joints between vertebrae show signs of osteoarthritis.
The complete spine. The width of the curve is correct, but the gaps between vertebrae have been increased so that they do not touch each other and get damaged. This makes this spine look longer than it would have been in life.
The complete spine. The width of the curve is correct, but the gaps between vertebrae have been increased so that they do not touch each other and get damaged. This makes this spine look longer than it would have been in life.

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