Hexenschuss: The German word for a sudden lower back pain literally translates to “shot by a witch”

literally: “shot by a witch” / meaning: lower back pain

All it takes is one clumsy movement and you suddenly feel like an 80-year-old crock who shouts out in an ache every time you stand up from your seat. Or do your business in the toilet. 

What Germans call “shot by a witch” is a lumbago in medical terms: a sudden stabbing pain in the lumbar area. The word might sound like a quirky analogy that someone made up for fun in modern times. In fact, the real story behind the word is much older, deeper and even a bit macabre. 

The term illustrates the medieval idea that all kinds of diseases were inflicted on a person by supernatural beings—like witches, elves, or Snooki for all I care—by shooting them with an arrow. In some cases, women were even accused of witchcraft because they were held responsible for the back pain of their fellow men. If you ask me, I would rather indict manufacturers of way too heavy beer crates.


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