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Arthritis brought ancient Romans 'to their knees'

Arthritis literally brought many ancient inhabitants of the Eternal City to their knees, making backs and joints ache with a pain that no modern-day patient has to suffer.

Arthritis brought ancient Romans 'to their knees'
The average ancient Roman worker was riddled with arthritis, suffered broken bones and was dead by 30 thanks to a diet 
of rotting grains and a lifetime of hard labour, a new study has found (pictured, the remains of a 30-year-old woman 
found in ancient Rome) [Credit: EPA]
The disorder usually set in around age 30 due to the labour that their skeletons were subjected to.

There was neither prevention nor cure. Fractures were brought together without any sort of surgical intervention and joints were caged in a wooden structure while waiting to heal.

The largest ever study of its sort on over 2,000 skeletons - by a team including two orthopedic surgeons, two radiologists and two medical historians - has been published in Bones: Orthopaedic Pathologies in Roman Imperial Age.

The book was presented by the orthopedic oncologist Andrea Piccioli, editor-in-chief of the Giornale Italiano di Ortopedia e Traumatologia, the Italian Orthopedic and Traumatology Society Società (SIOT) secretary and member of the scientific committee of the Higher Institute of Health.

The scholar was in charge of the study alongside the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Maria Silvia Spinelli as well as Carla Caldarini and Federica Zavaroni (anthropologists) and Silvia Marinozzi (medical historian).

The work is unprecedented in scientific literature in terms of the number of subjects taken into consideration, which were found in several excavation campaigns in the underground necropolises of the capital, with photographic exams integrated with modern imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CAT) scans to find to lesions that were previously impossible to detect.

"Some of the finds seemed so particular to us that they could not but have assumed good knowledge of bone treatment techniques. It thus seemed important to us to seek collaboration with medical historians to understand and analyze the evolution of medical and orthopedic knowledge of Imperial Rome," Piccioli said.

"We have got a glimpse of a distant time that showed us men and illnesses that surprised us and sometimes touched us. These were men and women used to living and working with painful, debilitating pathologies. We today can't even imagine what it must have been like," he said.

Author: Maria Emilia Bonaccorso | Source: ANSA [May 27, 2016]

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