Although it is estimated that over 4% of individuals have some degree of scoliosis
, many people have never heard of (or know very little about) this condition.
Whether you have just been diagnosed or are simply looking to find out a little bit more about scoliosis, we thought that it would be a good idea to provide a short history of scoliosis so as to allow our patients and other visitors to find out more about mankind’s understanding of scoliosis and how this has progressed over the years.
Scoliosis in Ancient Greece
Although our sophisticated understanding of scoliosis, what causes it, and how to treat it is a rather modern development, knowledge of the condition can be traced back to ancient civilisations, and is well-documented by ancient Greek scholars. Hippocrates wrote about spinal curvature throughout his medical literature, although there was no clear distinction between different types of curve at this time. He even developed treatment methods and devices for spinal correction, the most well-known being his ‘Hippocratic ladder’ and ‘Hippocratic board’.
This research was furthered by Galen in the 2nd century AD, who is considered to be an early pioneer of spinal research, and who is said to have first coined the term σκολίωσις/sκoliosis (from which the modern term derives).
Ambroise Paré’s Scoliosis Brace
The modern Boston bace (designed circa 1972 in Massachusetts) is widely used to treat idiopathic scoliosis, particularly in children, by halting curve progression. The concept of bracing for scoliosis, however, has been around far longer than the 1970s, with Ambroise Paré suggesting the use of a metallic brace for spinal correction during the Renaissance era. Known as the ‘Father of Modern Surgery’, Paré was the first to use continuous bracing as a form of treatment for scoliosis, and was also the first to recognise that this was not useful once the patient had reached maturity. Despite his insistence on the bracing method, Paré never rejected traction therapy, continuing to use this in his treatments, and also insisting on the importance of exercise for healthy spinal development and curve correction.
The Development of Cobb Angle Measurement
The system used nowadays to measure scoliosis and post-traumatic kyphosis is known as the Cobb angle
, which acts as a guide for assessing the severity of a patient’s curve. This method was devised by and named after John Robert Cobb, an American orthopaedic surgeon who worked at what was then known as the ‘Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled’ from 1934 onwards. It was here that Cobb experimented with and developed his scoliosis assessment method as a way of better understanding the condition and avoiding unnecessary surgery.