The history of scoliosis therapy can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece.
More specifically, scoliosis treatment has its roots in the 5th century BC and one man in particular: Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – 370 BC).
Who was Hippocrates?
The mid-to-late 5th century BC was a turbulent time for the Hellenic people.
From 431 to 404 BC, the country was entrenched in a titanic war between the Delian League of Athens and the Peloponnesian League of Sparta. Meanwhile, Athens was also suffering from a devastating plague, which wreaked havoc in the city periodically between 430 and 426 BC.
In short, it was a dark time for Greece. But this was also the period that gave us Hippocrates, often referred to as the ‘father of medicine’.
Born on the island of Kos around 460 BC, Hippocrates was the son of a physician and is believed to have learned the trade from his father. Among his long list of medical achievements, Hippocrates is heralded as the first person to theorise that diseases and ailments were caused by environmental factors and not the result of superstition or an act of the gods.
He’s also the namesake of the ‘Hippocratic Oath’: the pledge taken by doctors declaring their moral and ethical obligations to their patients as medical practitioners.
Hippocrates and Scoliosis
Separating medicine from religion would probably have been enough on its own to secure Hippocrates’s place in history, but his achievements go far beyond that. Notably, he was also a key figure in the history of spinal treatment, and he is believed to have been the first physician to focus on the anatomy and pathology of the human spine.
Through his revolutionary study of the spinal structure and vertebrae, Hippocrates’s work led to the pioneering identification of many spine-related diseases – including scoliosis.
Hippocrates is commonly credited as the person who coined the term ‘scoliosis’ and the first to try treating this condition.
Hippocratic Scoliosis Treatment
From his unprecedented study of orthopaedics, Hippocrates created three pieces of equipment to treat spinal ailments: namely the Hippocratic ladder, the Hippocratic board, and the Hippocratic bench.
Intended to reduce spinal curvatures, the Hippocratic ladder treatment required the patient to be elevated and tied to the ladder upright or head down (depending on the where the curvature lay). The patient would then be shaken on the ladder, with the gravitational pull theoretically straightening the spine.
Similar to the ladder, treatment via the Hippocratic board involved the patient being tied to the board; however, this time, the patient was required to be prone, lying face down and flat. The physician would then apply pressure to the affected area of the spine using a hand, foot, or even the entire weight of the body.
Also known as the Hippocratic scamnum, the bench technique saw the patient lie face down on a bench similar to the board technique above. A smaller wooden board was then inserted into a pre-made hole in the wall, leaving the plank protruding out above the patient’s back. An assistant would then apply pressure on the end of the plank while the physician manoeuvred the board along the body.
Like many ancient treatments, these techniques naturally seem archaic, even barbaric by today’s standards. Nevertheless, these apparatuses – based on the principles of axial traction and three-point correction – were hugely innovative at the time, and they had a profound influence on the direction of spinal treatment to follow.
Luckily, medical science has come a long way since the days of Hippocrates, and there are now a variety of comfortable and safe non-surgical scoliosis treatments available. At Scoliosis SOS, our team of friendly, skilled therapists offer patients specialised scoliosis treatment that’s specifically designed to enhance your quality of life.
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